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You May Have Been Thinking About Mental Toughness Wrong. Here’s Why

The idea of mental or emotional toughness is not something that’s new. It has been studied since the 1960s.

However, it’s ideology in today’s society has been skewed. Many people relate it to one’s ability to deal with issues like stress and anxiety. Or simply being able to deal with the inconveniences of life. We like to tell people just to “hang on in there and you’ll be alright.”

Although, mental toughness does not have to be about simply battening down the hatches in the face of emotional storms. Instead, it can be about seeking out and thriving in mentally and emotionally demanding situations.

In this sense, mental toughness is a positive psychological variable related to success that goes beyond merely accepting and dealing with anxiety to finding opportunities in hardship for self-development and growth.

Professor Peter Clough and his colleagues at AQR have developed something they call the “4Cs model” of mental toughness. In this, mental resilience comprises of four components: confidence, control, commitment, and challenge.

What they say is that the opposite of mental toughness is not weakness, but rather, sensitivity. Sensitive individuals find stresses more difficult to handle, and tend to struggle when things become unknown. While mentally tough individuals tend to prosper in stressful situations and so are more likely to take up leadership positions.

Further evidence suggests the tough only get tougher and the sensitive get more sensitive as they move through life. Thus, for the mental tough, the odds of the world get increasingly staked in their favor.

However, under Peter Clough’s “4Cs model,” it all comes down to confidence, control, commitment, and challenge. And those traits can be learned and developed.