Mental Toughness is a personality trait, which is emerging as the key to understanding how people respond to stress, pressure and challenges. Research shows that mental toughness is a key factor in resilience and sustainable performance. It can account for up to 25% of the variation in an individual’s performance and is a significant factor in wellbeing.
Under extreme and stressful conditions, humans don’t rise to the occasion; they sink to their training. Extreme environments are characterized as those situations, which place a high demand on the physiological, affective, cognitive, and/or social processing resources of the individual. Extreme environments strongly perturb the body and mind, which in turn initiate complex cognitive and affective response strategies. Different types of extreme environments may share some aspects but can also have unique demand characteristics. For example, exposure to the cold and isolated environment of an Antarctic expedition may result in extreme social and sensory deprivation, whereas exposure to military combat operations may entail extreme sensory overload. It is clear that there are many different types of extreme environments or situations, but it is less clear that an individual’s cognitive and affective responses are as varied as the different types of extreme environments. From a systems neuroscience perspective, optimal performance under extreme conditions can be conceptualized as goal oriented task completion during a high demand context. This conceptualization highlights the importance of stress-related neural processing, of cognitive control, and of learning for the adaptation to extreme environments. There is little doubt that rigorous physical training has the to strengthen and build an individual’s cognitive and affective response to stressful conditions and extreme environments; however, research suggests that it needs to include building mental as well as physical strength as its primary goals.
To be mentally tough is to resist the urge to give up in the face of failure, to maintain focus and determination in pursuit of one’s goals, and to emerge from adversity even stronger than before. Psychologists claim that almost everyone can benefit from strengthening these skills, even those people we might consider paragons of mental toughness: army drill sergeants. Mental toughness comes from thinking like an optimist. “People who don’t give up have a habit of interpreting setbacks as temporary, local and changeable.”
The workplace has an obligation to prepare soldiers to endure the stressful and traumatic experiences they may encounter during the course of their employment. Indeed, it must enable them to do more than endure. The employer must fulfill an unspoken promise that in return for dedication, commitment and excellent service employees will be developed both professionally and personally due to their exposure to these workplace stressors. The ideal objective is to nurture and develop the employee so that their performance and skill sets are significantly improved and enhanced on a regular basis, and that they are better able to cope as a result of these experiences. Developing the employees character and ultimately their internal fortitude (mental toughness) is the most critical factor in strengthening resistance to workplace and environmental stressors. If an organisation is to remain effective in an era of “persistent competition, revolutionary and evolutionary workplace change, and increasingly challenging working environments” characterized by increasingly
complex, and morally ambiguous situations, leaders at all levels must recognize the linkage of these issues, and implement a comprehensive program that integrates character, moral-ethical, mental, social and spiritual development in order to instill a strong, vibrant and resilient character (mental toughness) in their employees.
Contemporary Neuroscience research has demonstrated repeatedly that incorporating mental training that is unique and novel improves intracellular strength, endurance, and flexibility through “Neuroplasticity,” greatly augmenting your chances of remaining mentally healthy throughout your life even into your latter senior years; too, research demonstrates that even if you are already in your senior years and are just starting out in cognitive training, you can begin to reverse the kinds of typical, age-related cognitive declines that may have begun.
The totality of benefits can barely be communicated, because in addition to acquiring mental toughness, there are advantages to be had that affect your life in terms that are not easily quantified by words. There are uncommon levels of easy, natural happiness and peace of mind to be discovered along with unusually deep treasures of courage, confidence, creativity, intelligence, intuition, and heightened sensory perception.
Dynamic mental toughness training that you will be exposed to on this course is the strategic use of mental exercises and real-life practices designed to reshape your brain for more power, endurance, flexibility, and efficiency, but which simultaneously affects your personal psychology by expanding your self-perception as well as your perception of the world around you.
At the end of this session the learner will be able to:
- Explain what is meant by ‘mental toughness’
- Explain the characteristics of mental toughness
- Identify why mental toughness is important
- List the four components of mental toughness
- Outline the benefits of mental toughness