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5 Ways To Build Mental Toughness – Career Essentials

5 Ways To Build Mental Toughness – Career Essentials

To continue to stay ahead of the curve in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world, we need to anticipate and capitalise on emerging trends. I believe Mental Toughness is one psychological edge that can help make all the difference to our success. Mental Toughness has been described as the capacity to not only ‘bounce back’, but to evolve in any given situation irrespective of competitive pressures and adversities. It is a key factor in the related executive capability ‘Resilience’; one deemed highly attractive in PwC’s recent 18th Annual Global CEO Survey, whilst differentiated by the added propensity to go as far as seeking out ‘disruptions’ and changes in order to grow.

Paul Lyons, an experienced recruitment CEO in Australia and Asia wrote last week on the benefits of Mental Toughness including improved stress-management as well as greater positivity, confidence, engagement, motivation, ambition, well-being and performance. Indeed, the importance of Mental Toughness (and Resilience) is nothing new, but 

'what is renewing its importance, is the desire for leaders to foster these characteristics enterprise-wide'.

In this vein, PwC’s CEO report identified some of the competitive benefits for organisations with executives and these abilities including: 

  • anticipating competition from outside their industry;
  • seeing a range of trends as more than ‘disruptions’;
  • paying attention to societal concerns; and
  • collaborating with non-traditional partners.

Naturally then, organisations are beginning to seek these types of qualities in their future employees, and to measure (and develop) these attributes in their people. What has been less clear to date…. is how?

Professor Peter Clough of the Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK and Doug Strycharczyk Managing Director of AQR International have developed the world’s first valid and reliable psychometric test measuring Mental Toughness, the Mental Toughness Questionnaire-48 (MTQ-48). MTQ-48 is an online 48 item psychometric tool accompanied by a 4 component model of Mental Toughness known as the 4 C’s: 

  • confidence (abilities and interpersonal) – ‘I believe I have the ability to achieve, and influence others to achieve’;
  • control (emotion and life) - ‘I believe I can achieve whilst managing my emotions and the emotions of others’;
  • commitment – ‘I’m committed and will do what it takes’; and
  • challenge – ‘I’ll push to achieve and relish opportunities to learn’.

I was first introduced to the MTQ-48 at last year’s 4th International Congress on Coaching Psychology. I have since completed the questionnaire myself and have begun introducing the tool to clients.

Dr Suzy Green, a Clinical and Coaching Psychologist, and founder of The Positivity Institute, shared some insights in her latest blog on ways to use MTQ-48 results and improve our Mental Toughness including relaxation training and cognitive behavioural thinking skills.

From my research to date, I believe the 5 best ways to improve Mental Toughness are:

  1. improving self-awareness, awareness of our impact on others, and adjusting behaviours accordingly;
  2. promoting positive thinking;
  3. moderating the impact of adversities (e.g. take deep breaths and time-out);
  4. moving forward and pushing the boundaries of ‘possibility’; and
  5. physical exercise (as has been seen with resilience training in sports psychology).

AQR will be hosting a breakfast and a series of workshops introducing MTQ-48 and its application next month. You can click here to register for Sydney events or here for Melbourne events, or alternatively feel free to contact us at The Career Guide for further information. I will be at the Melbourne event - I hope to see you there!


The Career Guide can help you to maximise your career potential, including coaching for professional development. Please do not hesitate to contact us via +61 407 679 847 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.

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