Course curriculum

  • 02
    Mastering Motivation
    Show Content
    • How To Get The Most From This Course
    • Video Presentation ~ Mastering Motivation [28 minutes]
    • Were You Paying Attention?
    • PDF Download ~ Wanting It Wheel
    • Loving Metuf?
  • 03
    Emotional Intelligence
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    • Video Presentation ~ Emotional Intelligence [28 minutes]
    • Were You Paying Attention?
    • Really Simple Mindfulness - Audio Download
  • 04
    Thought Shaping
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    • Video Presentation ~ Thought Shaping [27 minutes]
    • Were You Paying Attention?
    • PDF Download of The Four Small-bells / Propeller
    • Follow Us On Social Media
  • 05
    Unleashing Unity
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    • 30 secs of audio missing
    • Video Presentation ~ Unleashing Unity [21 minutes]
    • Were You Paying Attention?
  • 06
    Fostering Focus
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    • Video Presentation ~ Fostering Focus [21 minutes]
    • Were You Paying Attention?
  • 07
    Finishing Up
    Show Content
    • Measure Your Current Mental Toughness
    • Certificate of Completion - Print and Complete

Mental Toughness Can Be Improved!

There Is Now No Doubt ...

What Is Mental Toughness?

The term mental toughness is getting used more across many domains but in particular in competitive sporting circles. On one side, this is great as finally, the mental side of performance is getting the attention it deserves. The downside is that it is increasingly used in the wrong way - for example as a synonym for mental health.

At Condor Performance we typically consider mental toughness and mental health as both being important but not the same. For us Mental toughness refers to the 'extra mental abilities required by those trying to achieve abnormally hard goals'. The key here is the 'extra' part. This is the part that if improved would benefit elite athletes much more than everyone else. This is what makes mental toughness difference from mental health. Mental health is something that everyone would benefit from improving. An entire post was written about this and can be read here.

Mental Toughness Is Different From Mental Health

This is not to say that mental toughness and mental health are 100% unrelated nor opposites. The fact that your mind is involved in both correctly suggests there is overlap between these two psychological concepts.

One way that I like to explain it to my sporting clients is by using physical health and physical strength as parallels. Elite athletes need to be much stronger than most people will ever need to be. If you took a normal, healthy woman and asked her to play an international woman's rugby match she'd be found wanting from a physical point of view. Yet, her actual physical health (blood pressure etc) may well be the same - if not better - than elite female rugby union players.

So mental health is more or less like the mental basics. If you have clinical depression then this will impact on all aspects of your life. However, if you get nervous before certain sporting contests then the rest of your life might well be completely unaffected by this specific mental challenge.

Metuf for Sports

Mental toughness can be thought of a being like one of four engines on an aeroplane. In this analogy the rest of the plane is like health and wellbeing. 

Mental toughness is like one of four engines on an aeroplane whereby the rest of the plane is like mental health and wellbeing

These four engines can be broken down into subcomponents that makes it easier for us to improve them. For example

As explained in Metuf for Sports sporting mental toughness might better be considered as an interplay between 5 areas. Motivation, emotions, thoughts, unity and focus combine to form mental toughness. The work we do as sport and performance psychologists is more or less about assisting our clients to improve their mental toughness. In essence we are really helping them improve or maintain these five areas.

When say motivation, emotions, thoughts, unity and focus in this context we are referring to these concepts as they relate mostly to training and competing.


Here are some examples to help clarify. 

It's quite possible for someone to have no signs of depression at all. This basically means that the 'motivation towards life' for this person is fine. However, this same individual might be an athlete and might not want to train or complete as much as before. Logically, interventions designed to improve clinical depression are not going to be much in this case. This athlete some needs mental skills instead. They need ideas designed to help improve motivation in the area they lack motivation for - training and/or competing.

The same applies when referring to sporting emotions, thoughts, unity and focus. The emotions of walking down the 17th hole with a two-shot lead on the final day are different from everyday general anxiety. The thoughts likely to trip up a Formula One driver before the light has turned green are unique and should be shaped accordingly. If you are part of a sporting team that lacks unity you will never be successful. And focus? The kind of focus needed to keep your eye on the ball as it's coming towards your head at 100 km/h is not the same as the kind of focus that would help you do better at school.

Can We Measure Mental Toughness?

In summary, the answer is 'yes, but not directly'. When we measure mental toughness we do so by asking about the five areas already mentioned (motivation, emotions, thoughts, unity and focus). The asking is typically done by online questionnaires such as these.  

There is no way to assess mental toughness directly in the same way that a physio can measure flexibility - for example. Some aspects of sporting mental toughness can be measured via observation by an astute onlooker but again this is just a best guess. 

When I first start working as a sport psychologist with a new sporting team I typically spend the first week or so just watching and taking notes. I make estimates on areas such as team unity. But I am mindful of the fact that what you see is not always what you get and that week might not be a typical week.

How Can Mental Toughness Be Improved?

Of course it can. Like so much in life how you go about it will likely depend on your budget. The expensive way is to work 1-on-1 with a performance psychologist like the ones that are part of the Condor Performance team. The cheap way is to complete the above Metuf for Sports online course. 

This online course is not the same as working with a psychologist. In the same way that reading a book about driving a car is no substitute to driving lessons with a qualified driving instructor. But reading a book about how to drive a car is better than doing nothing at all!