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mental toughness and mtq 48


Dr Peter Clough & Doug Strycharczyk

Hull University & AQR

what is mental toughness

“A personality trait which determines in large part how people deal with challenge, stressors and pressure .... irrespective of prevailing circumstances”

It’s universal – it’s applicable in many walks of life.

is it important yes
Is it important? Yes!

Performance– explains up to 25% of the variation in attainment

Behaviour– more engaged, more positive, more “can do”

Wellbeing – more contentment, better stress management , less bullying

Transition – Aspirations - Retention – Employability

The evidence is that Mental Toughness provides advantages but it is self awareness which is important.

why is it relevant to outdoor experiential learning
Why is it relevant to Outdoor & Experiential Learning

Mental Toughness describes a mind-set which is important for developing life skills

MT can be developed – almost all effective tools and techniques are experiential. Ideally suited to this world.

Understanding MT and its components enable practitioners to direct the efforts more effectively


It has origins in the world of the academic and the practitioner.

Resilience -Health psychology - Commitment, control – a passive concept

Hardiness -Commitment, control + challenge – becoming proactive

Dienstbier -Physiological toughening = psychological toughening

Sports Psychology - MT can help lesser athletes beat more able athletes - Often mentioned but poorly defined

Finally Dr Peter Clough @ The University of Hull

Defined MT in useful detail & added a fourth dimension – Confidence

the four c s
The Four C’s

Mental Toughness has 4 components:





Which combine to provide an overall measure of

Mental Toughness

Think of these as aspects of mindset.


“stick-ability”. Describes to what extent you will “make promises” and the extent to which you will keep those promises.

Those promises can be made to others or to themselves.

When asked to do something to a target by a certain time & date do you instinctively think:

I’ll go for that and I’ll do what it takes or

I’ll never manage that – I’ll look stupid when I fail.


How do those “Low” in commitment typically behave?

Will avoid setting goals and targets –failure will expose them as “failures”

Exams, tests, assignments are threatening

Goals & targets are intimidating to them

Give up easily and find a reason for it

Will try to ignore goals and targets

Distract attention from the goal – “ I would have done it but I did this other thing/ was asked to do something else, etc”

Often respond to the last person to ask them to do something


How do those “High” in commitment typically behave?

Will translate goals and targets into “pictures of success” & plan for attainment.

Exams, tests, assignments are welcomed

Set targets for themselves - pbs

Work hard and go for it.

Excited by measures, goals and targets


Are there “downsides” for those “High” in commitment?

Are there “upsides” for those who aren’t “High” in commitment?


“Can do”. Describes to what extent you believe you shape what happen to you and manage your emotions when doing it.

There are two components :


Emotional Control

When asked to do something , is your default response:

I can do it …. without needing to check if it is possible

I’ll stay in control of my emotions

life control
Life Control

How do those “Low” in life control typically behave?

They are fatalists – things happen to them

Do one thing at a time – panic when overloaded

Blame others and circumstances for failures

Tend to focus on why things cant be done

Cup half empty

life control1
Life Control

How do those “High” in life control typically behave?

Believe they make difference

Happily multi-task

Good at planning & organisation

Will try to ignore goals and targets

Cup is half-full. Everything is possible.

Work hard to clear blockages

Problems exist – they are there to be handled

life control2
Life Control

Are there “downsides” for those “High” in “Life Control”?

Are there “upsides” for those who aren’t “High” in “Life Control”?

emotional control
Emotional Control

How do those “Low” in emotional control typically behave?

Reveal their emotional state to others

Deal poorly with criticism or negative feedback

Feel things happen to them

Get down when things go wrong

Can lose it when provoked or annoyed.

emotional control1
Emotional Control

How do those “High” in emotional control typically behave?

Manage their emotional response to situations

Difficult to provoke or annoy

Deal well with difficult people

Mask anxiety – maintain poise

Deal well with bullying behaviour

emotional control2
Emotional Control

Are there “downsides” for those “High” in “Emotional Control”?

Are there “upsides” for those who aren’t “High” in “Emotional Control”?


“drive”. Describes to what extent you challenges, change, adversity & variety as opportunities or as threats.

When asked to do something significant or challenging is your immediate response to say:

That’s great – I look forward to whatever emerges or

Oh no! I like things the way they are – I'm frightened by what might happen.


How do those “Low” in challenge typically behave?

Hate change and variety of any sort.

Don’t like shocks & surprises

Hate new places; people; subjects, bosses, etc

Respond poorly to competitive types

Risk averse

Avoid effort and anything which attracts attention


How do those “High” in challenge typically behave?

Like challenge

Easily bored – will seek change - may provoke change

Like problem solving

Work hard & smart

Risk orientated

Readily volunteer


Are there “downsides” for those “High” in challenge?

Are there “upsides” for those who aren’t “High” in challenge?


“Self Belief”. Describes to what extent you believe you have the ability to deal with what will face you and the inner strength to stand your ground when needed.

There are two components :

Confidence in Abilities

Interpersonal Confidence

When doing something and you face a problem, is your default response:

I have the capability to plough on?

I’ll deal with those who get in my way?

confidence in abilities
Confidence in Abilities

How do those who have “Low” confidence in abilities typically behave?

Will be reluctant to express a view in discussion or debate

Low self belief. Not confident that they know subject matter even they you do.

Inner belief missing – need others to build that.

Unsure whether they have grasped a subject or not – feel they are still missing something

confidence in abilities1
Confidence in Abilities

How do those who have “High” confidence in abilities typically behave?

Don't need others to tell them they can do it or to encourage them.

Happily to engage in discussion even if it takes them into the unknown

Can believe they are right .. Even when they are wrong

Little or no need for external validation.

confidence in abilities2
Confidence in Abilities

Are there “downsides” for those with “High” confidence in abilities?

Are there “upsides” for those who don’t have “High” confidence in abilities?

interpersonal confidence
Interpersonal Confidence

How do those “Low” in interpersonal confidence typically behave?

Back down quickly when challenged

Will allow others to dominate debates – even when they are more knowledgeable and more expert

Will have difficulty dealing with assertive people

Wont ask questions in group settings

Will accept criticism even when its not deserved

interpersonal confidence1
Interpersonal Confidence

How do those “High” in interpersonal confidence typically behave?

Will argue their corner – especially if they believe they are right

Will gets their own way – even when others may have a better case

Wont allow others to orally dominate

Will have a “go” and enter a conversation.

Will often provide a full response to questions

interpersonal confidence2
Interpersonal Confidence

Are there “downsides” for those “High” in Interpersonal confidence

Are there “upsides” for those “High” in Interpersonal confidence

the four c s a summary
The Four C’s – a summary

Control - I really believe I can do it

- I can keep my emotions in check when doing it

Commitment- I promise to do it and will set goals

- I will do what it takes

Challenge- I am motivated to do it – I can see the opportunity

Confidence - I believe I have the ability to do it

- I can argue my corner if I need to

Together these give rise to Mental Toughness

the model its fit with current thinking
THE MODEL – its fit with current thinking
  • Introduces the ideas of
  • Fixed Mindset
  • Flexible Mindset
  • Introduces the ideas of
  • Talent Myth
  • Purposeful practice
  • Introduces the ideas of
  • Learned Helplessness
  • Learned Optimism
  • & Happiness
the model current thinking
THE MODEL –current thinking

One interesting observation is that all models have, as a core concept, the requirement to work hard as well as work smart.

There is a recognition that the West might have a technological advantage but the third world is catching up quickly but is doing this with a better work ethic.

“Success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration” Benjamin Franklin

the next level of validation of the mtq48
The next level of validation of the MTQ48
  • University of Western Ontario – examining mono-zygotic and Di-zygotic twins
  • University of Basle – examining adolescent behaviour – dealing with anxiety, sleep. Etc
  • University of Lincoln –relationship with emotional intelligence
  • Universities of Parma & Modena & Reggio – Brain Scan studies providing a biological explanation

& ongoing studies in the Gulf, US, Australia and , of course, Hull.

measuring mental toughness mtq48 questionnaire
Measuring Mental Toughness MTQ48 Questionnaire

Normative, valid and reliable measure

On-line format (can print off questionnaires)

Easy to use

On-line facility also helps to manage data

Short inexpensive licensed user training (2 days)

3 versions:1. Occupational (all ages)2. Young persons (age 11- 17)3. on its way –early years (age 3- 5) and junior school (age 7 – 10)
mental toughness development
Mental Toughness Development

The Mental Toughness model is a fairly complete process

Understanding– the model provides a structure around which to assess an important requirement for performance and wellbeing.

Diagnosis– the measure enables diagnosis, assessment and measurement at a useful level – the 4Cs

What are my issues? What are their implications? What will I seek to develop/improve? Where is it best to start?

Interventions – ability to direct interventions better and to select appropriate interventions –works with any intervention strategies.

Evaluation– the ability to measure change and to relate it to action.

mental toughness development1
Mental Toughness Development

Interventions fall into 6 broad areas:

1 Positive thinking– affirmations, think three positives, turning negatives into positives, etc

2 Visualisation – guided imaging, using your head to practice, etc

3 Anxiety Control– relaxation techniques, breathing, etc

4 Attentional Control – focus, dealing with interruptions

5 Goal setting – SMART, balancing goals, how to deal with big goals, etc

6 The test itself + feedback – people respond to the feedback

Plus Biofeedback – monitoring self, guiding selection and adoption of tools and techniques

These all help to develop the capability to deal with stress, pressure and challenge and, where appropriate, to cope with these.

mental toughness development positive thinking
Mental Toughness Development- Positive Thinking


think three positives,

turning negatives into positives,

self talk

thought stopping

looking at role models

what will I do tomorrow?

attitude ladder

The underlying principle

- we are what we think.

mental toughness development visualisation
Mental Toughness Development- Visualisation

guided imagery

pink elephant

change your environment

target practice

penalty shoot out

The underlying principle

- We can imagine success or we can imagine failure and we can learn from that.

mental toughness development anxiety control
Mental Toughness Development- Anxiety Control

control distraction

controlled breathing

muscular relaxation

ear tap

smiling and laughing

self hypnosis



The underlying principle

Psychological responses such as fear & worry have a physiological consequence Controlling those physiological response can help us to manage the mental responses.

mental toughness development goal setting
Mental Toughness Development- Goal Setting

smart goals

balancing goals

setting milestones

The underlying principle

Give meaning and direction as well as fuel and energy to achieve objectives & approach new challenges.

mental toughness development attentional control
Mental Toughness Development- Attentional Control

minimising interruptions


stork stand

shut out distractions

The underlying principle

Focus, sustained attention and concentration, enables us to work better and for longer

Interruptions and distractions undermine that capability

mental toughness development2
Mental Toughness Development

Thank You

We’re around if you

have any questions

visualisation seeing success
Visualisationseeing success


Perform better in exams ands tests

Produce better coursework

Achieve more – cover more subjects

Work harder


Studies show that up to 25% of the variation in an individuals performance on tests can be explained by their mental toughness


More positive – “can do”

More likely to respond positively to change

More likely to engage – will volunteer for activities

More likely to accept responsibility

Better disciplined - attendance


Deal better with stress and pressure

Sleep better!

Less likely to develop mental health issues

Can relax even after the most challenging time

Report much less bullying behaviour

Less likely to consciously adopt bullying behaviour

aspirations employability
Aspirations & Employability

More ambitious

Set higher standards

More confident

Adopt a competitive approach

Deal better with redundancy

More likely to get a job


Deal better with

New schools

New courses

New tutors

New experinces

completion on time and on target
Completion on Time and on Target

More stick-ability – will complete programmes

Better at project management

Take setbacks and change in their stride.