Resilience and Mental Toughness: What are they?

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I recently wrote a post which canvassed thinking on ways to manage stress as a means of being resilient.  This post takes the issue a little further in addressing the notion that psychological hardiness, or mental toughness, also has a moderating effect on how we deal with the physical and mental strain of working in stressful situations for a prolonged period.

There has been substantial research in this field since the publication by Suzanne Kobase of her research on ‘Stressful events, personality and health’ in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (37(1) pp1-11) in 1979.  Since that time researchers have defined resilience or mental toughness in slightly different terms but recurring themes are:

  • confidence – having high levels of self belief
  • challenge – seeing challenge as a natural component of our lives and one which can offer opportunity
  • commitment – being able to stick to tasks and trying hard
  • control – that is believing we can influence our environment and destiny

It is important to recognise that not all researchers see mental toughness and resilience as being synonymous.  For example  Clough, P and Strycharczyk, D in their book ‘Developing Mental Toughness: improving performance, wellbeing and positive behaviour in others‘ (published by Kogan Page, London in 2012) see all of the above characteristics as signs of mental toughness but only the latter two as characteristics of resilience.

The neuroscience based PRISM Business Brain Based diagnostic, developed by The Center for Applied Neuroscience in 2002, identifies a cluster of nine behavioural competencies which denote mental toughness of which resilience is but one.  PRISM defines resilience as “Having the behavioural persistence to bounce back quickly from difficulties and to see setbacks as nothing more than a minor distraction along the road to ultimate success”

The Mental Toughness competencies measured by PRISM are:

  • self belief
  • ambition
  • resilience
  • self management
  • optimism
  • determination
  • independence
  • competitiveness
  • adaptability

If you are interested in gaining a better understanding of your levels of mental toughness and resilience using PRISM please email me via the contact page.

Image:    iQoncept/

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