What is Mental Toughness?

Just recently I have been asked more about mental toughness, so in this post I would like to share with you what mental toughness is – including the 4 c’s of mental toughness.


What is Mental Toughness?

If you have watched sports before, I imagine you have heard sports commentators talk about the mental toughness of players and athletes. Essentially mental toughness is a personality construct and refers to how human beings deal with stress, pressure and challenges. However, a few definitions on mental toughness include –

  • “Mental toughness is having the natural or developed edge that enables you to: (i) generally, cope better than your opponents with the many demands (competition, training, lifestyle) that sport places on a performer; (ii) specifically, be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure.” (Jones, Hanton & Connaughton, 2002),
  • “Mental toughness is a collection of values, attitudes, behaviours, and emotions that enable you to persevere and overcome any obstacle, adversity, or pressure experienced, but also to maintain concentration and motivation when things are going well to consistently achieve your goals.” (Gucciardi, Gordon and Dimmock, 2008),
  • “Mental toughness is the presence of some or the entire collection of experientially developed and inherent values, attitudes, emotions, cognitions, and behaviours that influence the way in which an individual approaches, responds to, and appraises both negatively and positively construed pressures, challenges, and adversities to consistently achieve his or her goals.” (Coulter, Mallett, and Gucciardi, 2010).

There are more definitions of mental toughness in the paper – Mental Toughness: Progress and Prospects and you can access that here.


Why is Mental Toughness Important?

Many coaches and sports psychologists believe that mental toughness is one of the most important psychological characteristics that determine an athlete’s success in sport. However, mental toughness has also been linked to wellbeing, positive behaviour and learning.


The 4 C’s of Mental Toughness

According to Clough, Earle and Sewell (2002), mental toughness is comprised of 4 subcomponents – commitment, challenge, control and confidence. These 4 components are also known as the 4 C’s of mental toughness. Clough et al (2002) describe the components as –

  • Commitment – carrying out tasks successfully despite problems of obstacles,
  • Challenge – seeking out opportunities for self-development,
  • Control – emotional control (ability to keep anxiety in check and not reveal emotions to others) and life control (being influential and not controlled by others), and
  • Confidence – confidence in abilities (with little dependence on external validation) and interpersonal confidence (being assertive and not intimidated in social contexts).

Over to You…

I hope this post has given you some insight in to mental toughness. Can you see how it can relate to your sport and also your life? If you have any questions, please leave them below or contact us. Also – you may like to have a look at the article I wrote for the Australian Tennis Magazine a few years back now here.

If you liked this article and want to keep taking the next step towards freedom and thriving in sport and lifeplease feel free to join the Sport Life Flow community by clicking here.


References –

Clair-Thompson, H., Bugler, M., Robinson, J., Clough, P., McGeown, S., & Perry, J. (2015). Mental toughness in education: exploring relationships with attainment, attendance, behaviour and peer relationships. Educational Psychology, 35:7, 886-907.

Clough, P. J., Earle, K., & Sewell, D. (2002). Mental toughness: The concept and its mea- surement. In I. Cockerill (Ed.), Solutions in sport psychology (pp. 32–43). London: Thomson.

Coulter, T., Mallett, C., & Gucciardi, D. (2010). Understanding mental toughness in Australian soccer: Perceptions of players, parents, and coaches. Journal of Sport Science, 28: 699-716.

Gucciardi D. F. (2017). Mental toughness: progress and prospects. Current opinion in psychology16, 17–23. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.03.010

Gucciardi, D., Gordon, S., & Dimmock J. (2008). Towards an understanding of mental toughness in Australian football. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 20: 261-281.

Jones, G., Hanton, S., & Connaughton, D. (2002). What is this thing called mental toughness? An investigation of elite sport performers. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 14: 205–218.

Stamatis, A., Grandjean, P., Morgan, G., Padgett, R. N., Cowden, R., & Koutakis, P. (2020). Developing and training mental toughness in sport: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies and pre-test and post-test experiments. BMJ open sport & exercise medicine6(1), e000747.

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