Developing Mental Toughness

When you think about getting stronger, fitter, faster, leaner and outperforming others, what do you think about? Growing larger muscles? Training harder? Running longer distances? Eating better foods? …What about being mentally strong?

You mightn’t have thought too much about how mentally tough you are - how much resilience or ‘grit’ you have - but the body is only as strong as the mind is. More often than not, it’s not the body that fails the mind – it’s the mind that fails the body. The good news is that just like your body can be trained to become stronger, so can your mind!

Developing mental toughness allows you to remain focused, confident and under control in times of pressure. It allows you to cope better than others with the difficulty of hard training, diet, competition and life. And It helps you to rebound from one of the hardest things to come back from – failure. Mental toughness can be improved by developing the ‘four C’s’:

  1. Confidence
  2. Challenge
  3. Commitment
  4. Control (1)

Mental toughness ven diagram.png


To be mentally tough, you have to be confident in your abilities. Confidence comes from self-belief in knowing what you’re capable of. It is reinforced by your experiences in similar past situations. By being highly confident in your abilities, you will have high positivity of success, which will result in improved performance. However, it is important to find the right balance of confidence; too little will result in underperformance, but too much can result in arrogance and complacency. When you know there is a deficit in your abilities for a task, it is important to respect that and not be over-confident. Instead, work on improving your abilities to have confidence in your performance.


One of the most important determinants of mental toughness is your ability to cope with challenges. To be mentally tough, you have to view challenges differently from the average person; you have to see them as opportunities to grow. You also have to be constantly striving for more. Once a goal or target has been achieved, a mentally tough person will set new ones. You also have to develop your ability to manage change. Things rarely go to plan and success is often dependent on someone’s ability to adapt to the situation to achieve the main goal.


Success is rarely easily achieved. There are going to be challenges, setbacks and failures along the way. To be successful, you have to be strongly driven in achieving your goals and must give your full effort in every task required to achieve them, regardless of how difficult it can be at times. To be mentally tough, you have to be almost obsessed with setting goals and attaining them.


Lastly, to be mentally tough, you have to develop your ability to remain in control. Success often requires managing many tasks and situations at once. You have to learn to remain calm and relaxed and take control of the situation. You must be able to increase positive energy and mobilise yourself and the people around you to be successful. You must also become a master of remaining focused in the presence of distractions; being able to ignore what is not important and give attention and energy to what is important is a key part of remaining in control and being mentally tough.

Being stronger, fitter, faster, leaner and outperforming others starts with the mind. The mind is what controls your body and is more often the limiting factor to your performance. To be mentally tough, you have to develop ‘the 4 C’s’. You have to train smart and hard and have confidence in your ability. You have to change your perspective on challenges and view them as opportunities to grow and improve. You have to be fully committed to your goals, no matter how hard it gets. And you have to learn to remain in control in situations and not let distractions take your focus away from the most important tasks. By developing mental toughness, you’ll be able to continue going when others would collapse, and rebound from the setbacks and failures that are all a part of the journey to success. A coach can be instrumental in paving the pathway to developing a strong mind and helping you achieve your goals.


  1. Clough, Peter and Strycharczyk, Doug. Developing Mental Toughness: Improving Performance, Wellbeing and Positive Behaviour in Others. 1st. s.l. : Kogan, 2012.

About the author

Daniel Brack

BSc., Pn1, CFT, SEN

From commercial pilot to fitness coach, Daniel changed careers to pursue his passion for health & fitness. He is the founder of Recalibrated Bodies and co-founder and Head Coach of Titan Fitness Algarve. He has a Bachelor of Science in Strength and Conditioning and is a Certified Fitness Trainer and Sports and Exercise Nutritionist. Daniel was an international IFBB men's physique competitor and is a father to two daughters. His passion is helping others become more educated and skilled to reach their health and fitness goals.

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