New Views on Mental Toughness for Peak Performance. Nix "Sacrifice" and "Self-Denial". Please!

Few of us wake up in the morning with the intention of being a hero. Nor should we; we are human. Instead, we hope to do our best without any major stumbling blocks and aim to do what is expected of us.

Few of us wake up in the morning with the intention of being a hero. Nor should we; we are human.

Few of us wake up in the morning with the intention of being a hero. Nor should we; we are human.

When confronted with obstacles that threaten to derail our routines and plans, it is then that we don the armor and go into battle. As they say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  I am not a fan of platitudes, but I will heed the wisdom if it triggers action.

Here’s something to think about: What if we’re missing opportunities to get what we want and help others get what they want by limiting our views and beliefs around obstacles and being tough?

In the work I do coaching individuals reaching for or recovering their peak performance, I’ve noticed a big difference in the way successful people think and prioritize their plans. Successful people don’t limit their worldview. They aren’t imprisoned in their mind by circumstances. They see a universe of possibilities. They don’t want to simply “get by,” but rather they have the mental toughness to ask for and expect more, no matter the barriers.

What Is Mental Toughness?

Some people think that mental toughness is the ability to plow through circumstances without being affected by emotions or feelings. When it comes to success, however, those focussed on peak performance know that the key is to identify, control, and manage emotions, both their own and others’.

"Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call it ‘character in action.’" - Vince Lombardi

Remove "sacrifice and self-denial", please. Those are negative qualities and not aligned with peak performance or self-care which contributes to peak performance.  However, "discipline", "state of mind", and "character in action" are healthy qualities, attributes, and concepts. For me, mental toughness means perceiving, understanding, using, and managing feelings. When you are aware and curious about emotions, you are sensitive to your own needs and others’ needs. This puts you in a stronger position to sort out negative from positive feelings and make better decisions.

Wikipedia describes mental toughness as a collection of attributes that allow a person to persevere through difficult circumstances and emerge without losing confidence. I like that.

Only within the past ten years has scientific research attempted a formal definition of mental toughness as a psychological construct.

Dr. Jim Loehr of the Human Performance Institute, in his book The New Toughness Training for Sports, defined mental toughness as "the ability to consistently perform towards the upper range of your talent and skill regardless of competitive circumstances."  That's peak performance.

What do you think about your own mental toughness? Do you need to nurture it, reassess your view or beliefs around it, or are you operating in the zone of “just right?” I’d love to hear from you. Contact me at, at 905-858-7566, on LinkedInMaestro’s Facebook, Twitter. 

Related Blogs:

Providing Conditions for Peak Performance, Patricia Muir