Mental Toughness Only for Competition or not?

Mental toughness – what do you think of when someone uses this term? Of course the sports psychology academic and research worlds have their formal definitions.

Famed sports psychologist Jim Loehr defines it as “the ability to consistently perform towards the upper range of your talent and skill regardless of competitive circumstances.”

Dr. Connaughton & Hanton define it as “having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to: generally, cope better than your opponents with the many demands that sport places on a performer; specifically, be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure” 

I bolded a couple of terms that show up repeatedly in the definitions of mental toughness. In my work with athletes and non-athletes I have to say that I disagree with these terms in the definition or should I say it needs clarification. If by “opponent” they mean the person or team you oppose, I feel it is far too limited to fully encompass the concept of mental toughness. Everyday life offers many opportunities to demonstrate mental toughness.

I also believe that mental toughness can be demonstrated without other people even being present never mind oppose!

Take a look at the following list. How many of these attributes or skills do you think apply to other than competitive situations?

  • Confidence
  • Motivation
  • Focusing and refocusing – concentration
  • Decision making (especially under pressure)
  • Emotional control
  • Leadership
  • Performance anxiety / nerves
  • Self-belief
  • Attitude/Mindset
  • Body language
  • Self-talk and thoughts
  • Performing or executing (especially under pressure)
  • Communicating with others effectively
  • Information processing (especially under pressure)

If you are like me – you will probably find that these skills and abilities should be developed in everyone – athlete or not; competitive environment or not; pressure packed situation or not. The great thing is that every one of these are learnable aside from any individual traits (unchangeable) you may have.

If you find that you are mentally tough in one area of life and not so much in other areas; or, if you find specific situations that you tend to be less effective, drop me a line – I can help. Drop me a line.

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About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - trailrunningclub.com. I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for Running-Advice.com. I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
This entry was posted in Confidence, focus, Goal Setting, Mental Game, Mental Toughness, Motivation, Running, Sports Psychology and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Mental Toughness Only for Competition or not?

  1. MichelleK says:

    Your question about being mentally tough in some of life’s arena but not others is an interesting one. I’m not sure if this is exactly on topic, but I’m toying with a blog post wondering if each person only has so much discipline? I am good at staying on track with workouts and eating healthfully. I am not so good at keeping the house clean or always maintaining focus at work. I know another person who is the exact opposite: neat, amazing work ethic, even pretty good at working out consistently, but absolutely horrible when it comes to eating right. Does it just come down to what we decide we value? Do people need at least one part of their life where they don’t feel the need to excel?

    • Dean Hebert says:

      You hit it. Humans have a finite limit for energy. That includes discipline which is mental/emotional energy. In fact someone who tries to be overly controlling in all phases of life are the people we tend not to want be around because everything has to be “just so”. They have no flexibility in life. They tend to be perfectionistic and/or controlling to the Nth degree. By having areas that we can just let go of – it becomes our outlet also. It is a relief because we are really spending our emotional energy on the things that matter to us. That brings us to your statement about what we value.. and my answer is absolutely YES!

      As for feeling the need to excel… that varies widely. We all know some individuals who seem not to need to excel at all and just getting by does it for them.

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