Using Mental Toughness to Control Stress and Increase Performance

The main focus of Mental Toughness is around developing confidence and feeling more in control of both life and emotions. One of the many benefits of this enhanced mental toughness is the ability to reduce the impact of problems and challenges and thereby minimize any feelings of stress.


Stress is often caused by a lack of confidence when dealing with challenge or uncertainty. This can result in a lack of perspective and dwelling on negative thoughts and failure. This in turn may well  affect your ability to focus on the important things. Gareth Mole, a Sports Psychologist, defines mental toughness as being ‘not distracted by the things over which you have no control.’ He says, ‘top performers focus on the things they can guarantee and leave aside the things that, at best, they can only influence.’


When we take this statement and apply it in a sporting context it is easily verified. Take a football goalkeeper for example. His responsibility is to prevent goals being scored. All that he can influence is preventing these goals and so his focus should be 100% on this task and not concerned with attempting to score himself. By removing such a concern, the brain is using less energy on unimportant thoughts and focusing more on the tasks which he himself can directly influence. Wasting mental and nervous energy on things you cannot control generates stress whereas applying this energy to controllable tasks will build confidence and subsequently performance.


The same concept applies in business. Leaders can influence business results but they cannot guarantee them. They may influence them by increasing marketing on new and existing platforms but they cannot control how many people will respond to their efforts. The past and the future are out of their hands. The present is the most directly in their control. Even when risk management is rigorously followed, accidents will always happen. There is no guarantee that equipment or resources will not malfunction and focusing on this is a waste of energy and will impact performance adversely due to the stress associated with these thoughts.


Mental Toughness is defined in a variety of ways and can be applied to many scenarios. One aspect however is agreed by all: challenge can create stress which in the right amounts can have very positive effects such as increasing creativity and motivation. The challenge then is to find a way to develop mental toughness to a point where we effectively manage our stress and maintain optimal performance at all times.





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