When you hear the words mental toughness what do you think of? Maybe you think of a family member who rarely displays emotions, or maybe you think of an athlete playing a championship game at a rival’s arena? There are many ways to describe mental toughness, but I am going with the broad definition of possessing high self-confidence and the belief in one’s abilities to endure any of life’s difficulties. By this definition, most people constantly strive for such a state. Below are a few traits to hone in on to improve your mental toughness.


One of the most difficult aspects of mental toughness to master is self-assurance. Gaining confidence in your abilities requires a change in mindset and persistence. Many times throughout your career, you will be expected to make difficult decisions and act on a moment’s notice. These times test our self-assurance and leave us feeling uneasy. However, with increased exposure to difficult situations, these decisions will become easier to make. Additionally, remind yourself that your skills and abilities are enough and thoughts of inadequacy will only hinder you. Surround yourself with those whom you view as mentally tough; confidence breeds confidence.

In control

They say life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. Without a doubt, life will test your patience and many events will be out of your control; however you must remain in control. You have control over your emotional reactions; your effort, energy, and dedication; and your choice of action. The mentally tough recognize that things will not always go their way, but this does not deter them from staying the course and remaining committed to whatever is at hand. Once you harness your innate ability to remain in control, the “out-of-control” moments seem significantly less detrimental.

Don’t allow fear to lead to regret

Both personally and professionally, fear can inhibit your success. As you learn more about your fears and potentially overcome them, you often realize the fear was unfounded. Fear is a huge source of regret. Think back to a time when you did not participate in something because you were afraid. You probably feel a sense of regret on the missed opportunity. The mentally tough acknowledge fear, confront and overcome it, and do not allow fear to lead to regret.

See big and little picture

Mentally tough people are neither solely big picture thinkers, nor strictly focused on the minor details. They are able to synthesize both of these viewpoints to best understand situations. Again, working towards a hybrid point-of-view takes time and energy. In order to develop this skill it is recommended that when approaching a situation, first seek to understand the big picture by asking “What is the purpose?” and “What do I need to know?”. Then dive deeper and ask more pointed questions such as, “What steps will I take to get to the end result? Alternating between the two views will eventually help create a mental framework that incorporates both simultaneously.

Harnessing mental toughness difficult, but with practice and persistence you will be able to achieve the ultimate state of mind.