WHAT IS YOUR ‘B’ TO GETTING MENTALLY FIT?

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What is your ‘B’ to getting mentally fit?

For the ‘B’ activity, the team at Get Mentally Fit are going to be BOLD. Forming strategic partnerships and increasing awareness of the value of our programs and services are key actions for us in the coming fortnight.

For us, we will be knocking on doors and elbow pumping some visionary leaders who understand the benefits of supporting their people mental fitness.

You can join us being B-old or decompress by planning some quiet time. How about getting the candles and a book out and simply having that soaker B-ath that you have been craving…ideally with everyone else out of the house. Whether it’s B-aking, B-ubble wrap stomping (a personal favorite for releasing pent up energy!) playing B-aseball, B-ug catching or B-razilian Jujitsu, that is something new that you have been thinking of delving into, or you have been annoying friends for years about, like playing a B-rass instrument (…oh dear, I’ve been threatening to play the sax forever…), this is your perfect opportunity to give it a go.

Alternatively, if you are B-ravely thinking of setting up an activity with your children, check out this resource https://www.childfun.com/alphabet/letter-b/ or Pinterest for letter ‘B’ activities. https://www.pinterest.com.au/janamarie76/letter-b-activities/.

What is the focus of this fortnight’s article?

Our focus within this article, for the ‘B’ fortnight, is to introduce the A-Z group to the concept of Mental Toughness. To effectively do this we will define and briefly summarise the 8 factors of, and some relevant concepts relating to, mental toughness.

We feel it is essential that the A-Z group understand the vocabulary and concepts relating to mental toughness. Why? As this will equip you with the knowledge that will enable you to make informed connections with many of the concepts and strategies that will be explored throughout the remainder of the program. It will also help you to connect the dots between your chosen mental fitness activity and its relating factor/s of mental toughness.

What does the research say?

Mental Toughness (not to be viewed as a macho concept) describes the mindset (refer to the previous article defining mindset) that every person adopts in everything they do. It is closely related to qualities such as character, resilience, grit, etc. Mental toughness is defined as:

“A personality trait which determines, in large part, how people respond to challenge, stress and pressure, irrespective of their circumstances”.

Research carried out up until 2002, under the direction of Professor Peter Clough of Huddersfield University, identified four key components (constructs) of Mental Toughness. These are known as the 4Cs (Control, Confidence, Challenge & Commitment). In 2017, work by Doug Strycharczyk, Dr John Perry and Professor Clough, allowed the concept to be expanded to eight factors to be understood and assessed around the 4Cs. The 8 factors include: Learning Orientation; Risk Orientation; Confidence in one’s ability; Interpersonal confidence; Achievement Orientation; Goal Orientation; Emotional Control & Life Control.

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Let’s break down the 8 factors of Mental Toughness…

Challenge Construct

Factor 1 of Mental Toughness: Learning Orientation

A large part of this is having an active exploratory mind and seeking to learn from others. Often referred to as a growth mindset, this is contrasted with a focus on performance orientation and the question: How can I demonstrate my competence? This is referred to as a fixed mindset.

The mentally tough typically have a high learning orientation. That is, they approach any situation with the motivating question like, What can I learn?  They know that even setbacks are opportunities for learning.

Factor 2 of Mental Toughness: Risk orientation – I am driven to succeed

Risk orientation refers to an individual’s attitude towards change and new experiences.

Mentally sensitive individuals see this as uncomfortable and something to be avoided. On the other hand, mentally tough individuals see change as exciting, interesting and they can see the opportunity that new experiences present for personal development. Mentally tough individuals are therefore, driven to succeed and push themselves to grow. As such, they typically become leaders in their chosen field.

Confidence Construct

Factor 3 of Mental Toughness: Confidence in one’s ability

The mentally tough individual believes that they have the intellectual toolkit (whether it be knowledge, skills, education, or experience) to complete a particular task. As a result, they tend to approach new tasks or actions with a pragmatism and self-belief that improves the likelihood of successfully completing tasks.

Factor 4: Interpersonal confidence – I can influence others, I can stand my ground if needed

This is an important skill in the development of self, and engagement with work or personal communities. It also protects against harm or aggression from physical violence or mental anguish inflicted by others.

A mentally tough person may exhibit interpersonal confidence or assertiveness – that is, the ability to influence others or to stand their ground in the face of objections or an alternative point of view from others.

Commitment Construct

Factor 5: Achievement orientation – I’ll do what it takes to keep my promises and achieve my goals

Achievement orientation relates to an individual’s ability to keep a promise. This requires the individual to have a healthy level of tenaciousness that means they are prepared to do what it takes to achieve goals.

As such, the mentally tough individual is reliable, consistent and known as someone that does deliver on their promises, rather than the mentally sensitive who can shirk commitment in fear of failure. To achieve this, mentally tough individuals break projects down into manageable chunks; they deliver outcomes on time; have a strong sense of conscientiousness. Consequently, they find working to a goal exhilarating and keep growing and generating strong networks with those they commit to.

Factor 6: Goal orientation – I promise to do it – I like working to goals

This factor relates to an individual’s preference for goals and measures. Mentally tough individuals set high standards for themselves and others.

They like being judged or assessed. Mentally tough individuals accept responsibility. They like ownership, acceptance and responsibility. This is why mentally tough individuals tend to be unphased by competition or adversity.

Control Construct

Factor 7: Emotional control – I can manage my emotions and the emotions of others

This factor relates to the extent to which an individual feels they are in control of their life, including their emotions and sense of life purpose.

Mentally tough individuals feel comfortable in their own skin and have a good sense of who they are. This helps them to keep a cool head in pressured situations and focused on what others would find to be impossibly noisy or stressful situations. As a result, the mentally tough are considered to be good leaders and valuable workers in high pressure or stressful roles like working as a paramedic. They are also wonderfully calming to others in times of despair.

Factor 8 of Mental Toughness: Life control – I really believe I can do it

Life control relates to how an individual feels and reacts when adverse events occur.  A lot of this comes down to their sense of control or influence over what happens to them.

Can mental toughness be reliably measured?

We are proud to partner with, U.K based, AQR International who have designed a model and measure for mental toughness, which has been 30 years in the making. Emily Johnson, our Principal Psychologist is an accredited Facilitator of the MTQ-Plus (Mental Toughness questionnaire).

Where most personality models and measures assess the behavioural aspects of personality “how we act”, AQR’s model and MTQ-Plus questionnaire assesses something more fundamental – “how we think”. In other words, why we act and respond emotionally to events. It enables us to measure and understand an individual’s mindset in a very practical way, which clearly identifies potential interventions to strengthen their mental toughness.

‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.’ (Peter Dragard)

Designed for individuals, check out our Measure Your Mental Fitness service or Get Mentally Fit program. More designed for professionals, discover our Leader Support service. All three offerings incorporate the MTQ-Plus questionnaire as a diagnostic tool for identifying the 8 Factors of a participant’s behavioural traits. This effectively helps us to identify the most appropriate interventions to enhance your mental fitness. Contact us to further explore how we can support you, your family or your staff (very worthwhile P.D), to get mentally fit.

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Developing a vocabulary around mental toughness principles…

Professor Clough suggests that the key to enabling positive behavioural change is initially creating self-awareness and a vocabulary around mental sensitivity and mental toughness. This enables you to begin to skillfully understand WHY you mentally respond to events when they occur and, from that, WHY others might respond to you as a result. As a suggestion, make a note to mindfully start identifying where you observe the 8 factors in your behaviours and that of others. It should not however be your aim in this exercise to definitively label yourself or others as we all uniquely sit somewhere on the spectrum of the 8 factors. Therefore, it is possible for us to be mentally tough in some factors and more mentally sensitive in others.

More importantly, from a point of increased knowing, if you develop your knowledge of mental toughness you can make more informed decisions about your behaviours. This knowledge can give you clarity when deciding whether you need to or want to change something or if you’re happy to remain the way you are. From this point of knowing you are also well positioned to develop coping strategies to address issues that might arise in your daily events.

But wait on…can you be too mentally tough?

Correlational research studies show that, generally, all things being equal, the mentally tougher amongst us will achieve more, and lead more contented lives, than do the mentally sensitive.

Clough, Earle and Sewell (2015) stated, when the right balance is achieved, ‘mentally tough individuals tend to be sociable and outgoing, as they are able to remain calm and relaxed. They are competitive in many situations and have lower anxiety levels than others. With a high sense of self-belief and an unshakeable faith that they control their own destiny, these individuals can remain relatively unaffected by competition or adversity’.

However, be certain that sometimes there can be potential downsides to being mentally tough. For example: an individual who is high in self-confidence can have a negative impact on others who are more mentally sensitive due to a lack of self-awareness. Another important consideration, although it might appear that the mentally sensitive feel every bump on the road through life and achieve less, it is also true that they can possess some advantages not always a feature of the mentally tough.

Now it’s your turn to participate – what activity can you try for ‘B’?

As we have an international group of participants, we are very mindful of the diverse set of social restrictions that we all have. Depending on your social landscape we encourage everyone to creatively pick an activity that you are capable of doing, and interested in, that starts with the letter ‘B’.

*Feel free to undertake your chosen activity on your own, with family members, different friends, colleagues, and professional networks, or even each other.

Share your activity on the A-Z to getting mentally Fit Facebook group and as a reminder… connect the dots between your chosen mental fitness activity and its relating factor/s of mental toughness. Will your activity relate to one or more of the factors of mental toughness?

Want to learn more?

We have deliberately divided the further learning sections, each fortnight, into three tiers of research (difficulty).

  1. Lounging on the beach or heading out for a casual snorkel – light research.
  2. Air-tank assisted buddy dive – more depth in the research and moderately challenging.
  3. Deep dive into the splendorous depths – more rigorous academic research and an essential piece to mental fitness.
*Lounging on the beach or heading out for a casual snorkel…

Articles and Blogs:

Six Interventions That Improve Mental Toughness

Are You Mentally Tough?

*Air-tank assisted buddy dive…

Book:

Developing Mental Toughness, Doug Strycharczyk & Peter Clough

*Deep dive into the splendorous depths…

Open Access Paper – (Join State Library of Queensland @ https://www.slq.qld.gov.au/ to access catalogue)

Mental Toughness and Individual Differences in Learning, Educational and Work Performance, Psychological Well-being, and Personality: A Systematic Review or https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01345/full

Video:

The Missing Link? An introduction to Mental Toughness 

Join in the conversation at the A – Z to getting mentally fit Facebook group to share in more about the happenings around What is your B?

If you enjoyed reading about and participating in this fortnight’s activity, we would be grateful if you’d share the links to our articles’ page and the Facebook group with friends, family, other interested people or colleagues. This helps others find these resources so we can all get mentally fit together.

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