Mental Toughness: Common Psychological Qualities Found in Peak Performers
One of the great things about working in mental health with a specific focus on human performance enhancement is that I have been fortunate to learn the qualities most commonly found in people who regularly display mental toughness and beat the competition. While we do not have control over things like our height and natural coordination, we do have control over countless variables that can make a huge difference in the ways in which we compete in life. For example, there is nothing stopping you from being the first to practice and the last to leave, or to learn new ways to take better advantage of the ways in which you spend your down-time. You might be surprised that most successful people do not rely on their natural abilities, but instead learn specific intrapersoanl skills to better manage stress, refine focus, and galvanize resiliency. The good news is that these skills can be learned by anyone, and with a little practice you will quickly see a spike in your performance.
Mental toughness qualities
So what are some of the common qualities found in people who regularly over-achieve in life? From my direct clinical experience, the list below captures some of the most salient qualities:
- Internal locus of control and continually develop optimism. People who operate from an internal locus of control look inward at their own thoughts and actions when faced with challenges, rather than pointing outward at the reasons why they are not experiencing success. Additionally, they always look for sliver linings, or more optimistic ways of framing difficult things into healthy life challenges.
- Project positive attitude and display confidence. Attitude is a choice, and peak performers know that how they present to others makes a big difference when it comes to building relationships and improving team tasks. We also know that developing a high degree of self-efficacy has a direct impact on performance, making confidence a big piece toward success.
- Regularly break their comfort zone when starting/stopping habits. Peak performers know that if you do tomorrow what you did today, you will likely experience the same result. To reach new heights in life requires that we get outside of our comfort zone, especially as this applies to big challenges in our life.
- Active Listeners, and are a sponge when listening to experts. Peak performers engage in active listening, meaning they tune in when someone else is speaking, ask powerful questions, and soak in and apply the knowledge they gain.
- Rational, critical thinkers. With so much information around us today it is vitally important to employ critical thinking when making important decisions. Asking important questions, verifying information, and objectively evaluating evidence are examples of critical thinking.
- Expect stress/failure, yet don’t allow failure to become to prevent positive outcomes. Peak performers know stress, adversity, frustration, and failure are all unavoidable life experiences, so they prepare for these situations (rather than try to avoid them) by developing coping and resiliency skills.
- Keep their ego in check, and find humor in life. Stay humble, appreciate what you have, and thank those around you for their help! It’s also important to find ways to laugh each day to keep spirits high while remaining optimistic for tomorrow.
- Understand thoughts impact behaviors, and behaviors impact thoughts. Peak performers know that sometimes changing the way in which they think and view things can have a big impact on behavior, but they also know that sometimes simply engaging in a new behavior (i.e. training with a new team, or going back to college) can lead to new ways of thinking about things.
- Realize that change can happen in a moment. Appreciate each moment, and know that change can — and often does — happen in a moment’s notice. Because of this, peak performers really give their best every time out, as opposed to standing around waiting for the “perfect” moment.
- Develop efficient ways to manage their days. Peak performers regularly ask themselves how they can get the most out of the time and resources afforded to them each day. What this means is to manage a daily schedule, examine the best ways to complete future tasks, and expend only as much energy as is needed to perform at a high level.
- Understand that “life is difficult.” Dr. Scott Peck began his famous book The Road Less Traveled with this simple, yet powerful quote: Life is difficult. Only when we begin each day accepting this perspective do we allow ourselves room for error, and a greater appreciation of what it takes to be good at something. Life is difficult does not mean life is impossible, but instead a simple reminder that most of the great things in life will take some work, and will likely be filled with challenging hurdles to overcome.
The moment you stop looking at what others have, and begin to look at the potential you have, is the moment when positive change begins to occur. The qualities discussed here are qualities that every person can learn and master, and by doing so you will begin to perform with greater efficiency, focus, motivation, and resiliency. Mental toughness is a general term that encompasses how you think, how you control emotions, and how you moderate human arousal, and not just making a mean face in front of a mirror! The more you understand about mental toughness, the easier it is to integrate these skills into your daily routines.