Mental Toughness & How To Develop It (Complete Guide)

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Mental Toughness Believe in Your Ability to Achieve Your Goals

Everyone from elite athletes to famous entrepreneurs claims mental toughness and positive self-talk are keys to succeeding in a plethora of fields.

There seems to be a large number of people swearing about the importance of toughness, but are there any benefits to a majority of individuals? Both scientific data and a large number of antecedents from tough performers seem to prove mental strength is crucially important in everyday life.

Yet, many people stop trying to improve their mental resilience because it seems far too daunting.

In this article, we will discuss a few practical strength-building habits people can implement in their personal lives, as well as the benefits of investing in your mental strength.

What is Mental Toughness? Definition & Meaning

Mental toughness refers to the ability of individuals to keep pushing even when the going gets tough.

Even though the feeling of failure impacts virtually everyone, people with toughness are able to bounce back after a misstep and come back stronger than ever before.

Such people view failure not as a reason to quit trying, but rather as an opportunity to learn more about one’s strengths and weaknesses.

Mental Toughness – Definition & Meaning

Mental toughness lets everyone from everyday individuals to elite sports performers be prepared for any challenges life throws at them.

Toughness not only allows people to deal with their mistakes, but it encourages individuals to become more resilient and continue pursuing success no matter what negative feelings affect them.

Mental strength allows people to stay focused and determined even if their goal progress stalls.

8 Benefits of Being Mentally Tough

Since developing a strong mindset takes time and effort, you may be curious about the specific benefits of gaining this mental skill. Here are just a few benefits of deliberately focusing on building psychological toughness:

  1. Discover career and athletic potential you never knew you had. It can open up a completely new career path for you.
  2. Achieving more of your intermediate goals, competition goals, and even your most important long-term goal.
  3. Pursue a higher level of success in your career by setting higher standards and pushing yourself to meet and exceed your standards.
  4. Gain control under pressure. You will be able to think clearly under pressure when you become tougher mentally.
  5. Overcome negative self-talk and gain confidence.
  6. An increased degree of resilience and perseverance.
  7. Makes you more comfortable with calculated risks.
  8. You will learn to filter out negative comments and understand which advice is appropriate and which is unhelpful.

Why Mental Toughness is Critically Important

Mental toughness is one of the most important psychological skills that help all individuals achieve their full potential.

Toughness helps improve productivity; it helps improve one’s output, better adherence to deadlines, and higher goal achievement.

Mentally tough people are better at stress management, adhere to attendance rules more strictly, are less likely to develop mental health issues, sleep better, and are able to stand up to bullies.

Staying engaged is simpler for tough people. They develop a positive, can-do attitude which helps them overcome adversity and contribute to a positive workplace culture.

Risk management and ambition are additional skills that are honed when mental strength is developed.

The feeling of accomplishment can motivate mentally tough people to keep pushing even when the going gets tough since they focus on goals instead of excuses.

Yet, there are even more reasons to pursue toughness. Generally, toughness contributes to higher well-being, efficient conversion of potential to action, calmer responses to stress, and increased aspirations.

How to Train & Develop Mental Toughness To Become Mentally Tough

Just like improving physical health requires consistent exercising of physical muscles, becoming mentally tough requires consistency of action.

Having the right mindset is crucial to growth, so start by reframing your negative beliefs into more positive ones, and changing your negative self-talk into positive beliefs. You can do this by acknowledging your strengths and setting realistic goals, then recognizing your strengths once you accomplish a goal.

Try to set yourself up for success. Modify your environment so persevering is not as difficult. For instance, do not surround yourself with high-calorie food if you are trying to lose weight. Instead, try to develop healthy daily habits like planning quick healthy snacks so you are not tempted by unhealthy food.

This will make achieving your goal easier. It prevents you from exhausting all of your mental energy so you can remain strong. Challenge yourself every day.

It is a consensus in goal setting: you must create daily goals so you can continually challenge yourself and get used to feeling uncomfortable. Try to consistently push beyond your boundaries and gain exposure to anxiety to build up resilience.

Mental Toughness – How to Train & Develop and Become Mental Tough

These challenges do not have to be immense but try going outside of your comfort zone (at least a little) every day. Being strong involves tolerating negative human emotions and discomfort, both in your personal and professional life.

Remind yourself of the big picture each time you feel like quitting because of high levels of stress. It will help you gain the confidence necessary to tackle your goals. Remember, there is an optimal level of stress.

This is the amount you are comfortable with, and the stress usually also means you are getting invested in an activity. Avoid creating excuses. Instead, try to examine why you did not succeed if your goals were not met.

Analyzing the reason behind your failure gives you an opportunity to create successful future strategies for tackling the same goal. Try pursuing the development of imagery skills. With imagery, you can imagine yourself achieving a goal to motivate yourself further and get a clear picture of what you wish to achieve.

Set aside excuses and focus on the incredible feeling you get from achievement. It is difficult to commit to a plan if you do not recognize your overall purpose. Understand why you are trying to improve your skills so you have a clear reason to keep going when met with challenging situations.

Throughout your daily life, you will likely encounter times when you feel unmotivated and wish to chase success. Remind yourself of that powerful reason which makes all of this time investment worth it to you.

Motivational self-talk is another strategy you can use to keep yourself excited about pursuing your goals. This involves you motivating yourself through positive language when your situation seems negative. Try focusing on your positive traits when you need an extra boost in confidence to chase your dreams.

4 Main Components of Mental Toughness

Toughness seems to be abstract and difficult to grasp the concept at first, but it is further broken down into multiple components. These include:


To achieve optimum performance levels (both mentally and physically), you must be challenged.

Toughness develops when you continuously fight through challenges, some on a daily basis and others on a grander scale.

Tough people (especially tough athletes, who are both mentally and physically strong) recognize challenges as an opportunity to improve oneself as opposed to a negative obstacle.


In general, control includes the belief that your actions influence, decisions, and beliefs over the course of your life.

If you believe you have no control over your destiny, there is no point in investing in yourself.

Once you acknowledge that you are capable of controlling your future, toughness can bring value to your life.


Perseverance and commitment are key elements of mental toughness. When the going gets tough, individuals who commit to their goals are the people who end up overcoming obstacles and reaching success.


The unshakeable belief that you are capable of achieving whatever you set your mind to is true confidence. Having this mindset is a prerequisite for becoming mentally tougher.

Mental Toughness for Sports Psychology

Mental toughness is important in a large number of fields, but there are a number of ways it is especially useful in sports.

The physical ability of athletes can only take them so far, as a large portion of sports is truly reliant on having a proper mindset.

In sports, mental toughness is used to help push an athlete’s boundaries, contribute to the motivation of athletes, boost an individual’s confidence, and improve athlete output and competitiveness.

Below are a few ways mental toughness can be utilized by the modern athlete & coach.

Mental Toughness for Young Athletes

Youthful athletes are especially prone to confidence and anxiety issues. Especially in adolescents, athletes need to have strong emotional management skills.

They must learn the importance of resilience and hard work early on. With mental toughness, performing better in the gym or field is inevitable, as it helps children stay motivated and encouraged instead of limited.

Mental Toughness for Athletes

All athletes, regardless of whether they are strength or endurance athletes, need stamina and persistence to become elite performers.

Mental toughness has been proven to assist in combating adversity and remaining calm in a competitive environment.

Additionally, toughness lets athletes put emotions and excuses aside in favor of focusing on goals. Another powerful benefit to toughness is the increased positivity it brings to athletes.

This positive mindset is truly contagious and could lead to more satisfaction and better outcomes for the entire team, not just one athlete.

Top 10 Mentally Tough Sporting Stars

There are many inspirational tough athletes who display the benefits of mental resilience.

A few of them include:

  1. Muhammad Ali
  2. Bjorn Borg
  3. Michael Schumacher
  4. Pete Sampras
  5. George Foreman
  6. Tiger Woods
  7. Kobe Bryant
  8. Don Bradman
  9. Haile Gebrselassie
  10. Niki Lauda

5 Books for Nurturing Mental Toughness

Sometimes, getting advice from elite-level athletes and entrepreneurs helps individuals recognize their own potential and motivates them to become tougher.

Understanding someone else’s journey can also expose you to unique strategies and a plethora of positive cognitive exercises.

A few of the best books on mental resilience include:

1. The Mental Toughness Playbook: The Tips You Need to Conquer Adversity, Develop Mental Strength, & Think Like a Warrior – Malcolm Smith

Malcolm Smith takes a unique approach to teaching resilience: he writes about the many resilient behavioral exercises used by famous people throughout history.

The book features strategies used by everyone from Marcus Aurelius to Malcolm X. He uses real-life examples to teach readers how to maintain their strength no matter what occurs in their life.

Smith teaches how to overcome almost any life circumstance with a hands-on and resilient approach.

2. Mental Training for Peak Performance, Revised & Updated Edition – Steven Ungerleider and Nick Bollettieri

Sports psychologist Steven Ungerleider describes how mental resilience is a key trait shared by many elite sports performers, and how both competitive athletes and average individuals benefit from toughness.

He gives a list of effective emotional exercises which increase your ability to succeed physically.

A few of these techniques include deliberate imagery practice, integrating mental management skills with physical activities to improve performance, harnessing the power of dreams, and building confidence with positive self-talk and affirmations.

Mental Toughness Books

3. Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds – David Goggins

Known for being immensely inspirational and exceptionally tough, David Goggins uses his own life story to teach readers about mental discipline and the value of hard work.

The audience can appreciate many personal elements of this book, such as Goggin’s recollection of his days in poverty and how he survived physical abuse.

The book reveals how anyone can push through their boundaries, destroy fear, and numb fear to chase their dreams.

4. 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do: Take Back Your Power, Embrace Change, Face Your Fears, and Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success – Amy Morin

Many of the habits you engage in could be holding you back from reaching your full potential.

In this book, listen to sed clinical social worker and psychologist Amy Morin discusses 13 unhelpful habits you can eliminate from your routine to become mentally tougher and more productive.

She goes on to share a plethora of strategies you can use to combat negative thoughts, crush your inner doubts, and overcome negative emotions.

5. The Mental Toughness Handbook: A Step-By-Step Guide to Facing Life’s Challenges, Managing Negative Emotions, and Overcoming Adversity with Courage and Poise – Damon Zahariades

Damon Zahariades addresses the many ways mental toughness affects everyday life in this insightful book.

He speaks about overcoming boredom, handling stress, finding ways to fight through challenges and emerge as a better person, as well as the benefits of focusing on small wins for motivation.

He integrates his own experiences with Navy SEALs into the novel to give practical and straightforward advice to readers.

Mental Toughness FAQ

What is an example of mental toughness?

There are many circumstances where athletes, entrepreneurs, teachers, singers, scientists, or other professionals used mental toughness to achieve success. For example, Matt Biondi was a favorite to win the gold medals in the 1988 Olympics.

At first, he lost both the finals. However, using his mental toughness, he truly focused and was able to win the next 5 games to win the gold. Lady GaGa was originally rejected by Def Jam Recordings at 19 but is now a world-famous singer. Country star Trace Adkins was shot in the heart and lungs but continues to sing to this day.

What are the 7 C’s of mental toughness?

Numerous components make up mental toughness. To remember these components, remember the 7 C’s: competitiveness, confidence, control, committedness, composure (staying calm under pressure), courage, and consistency (continuing to implement these techniques over the long run). If you implement all 7 of these elements, you will surely become more mentally tough.

How do you define mental toughness?

Mental toughness is the ability to continue working hard, even when facing difficult circumstances. Those that are mentally tough are still competitive and positive when they are facing such trying times.

Thus, mental toughness involves organization, preparation, resilience, and positivity all in one mindset.

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