Resilience and Mental toughness – is there a difference?

2021 hasn’t started off as smoothly as we may have liked. COVID-19, lockdowns, travel restrictions and people still working from home… It has been a challenging year already.

This month I want to focus on resilience and mental toughness, and how we can develop and use those skills to support ourselves and our teams through these tough times. These are topics which have come up with my coaching clients recently and I think there’s a lot we could all learn which might help us cope right now.

Is there a difference between resilience and mental toughness?

I’ve often heard it said that “all mentally tough individuals are resilient but not all resilient individuals are mentally tough. I think that’s true. Brian Corrigan of KPMG puts it well when he says, “Mental toughness is not resilience. If you think of a stressful time in your life, resilience relates to what you do to reduce the burden of that stressful event after it’s done, whereas mental toughness is employing cognitive strategies to take that challenge head on, before the event can have its toll on you.”

Three key differences.

I think there are three fundamental differences between resilience and mental toughness.

Timeframe: As KPMG suggested, resilience is usually associated with bouncing back after an event. It’s usually discussed as a method of recovering from something which has gone wrong. On the other hand, mental toughness relates to preparation for a difficult event. It’s something which happens before the event.

Internal and external influences: Because resilience is a way of recovering from an event and changing in response to circumstances, you could say it has more of an external focus than mental toughness. The toughness springs from internal factors, including your mindset. It’s related to preparing your thoughts and emotions, and controlling them so they guide you through to your goal.

Attitude: This one is tough to describe but I’ll give it a go. Resilient people adopt a positive mindset because they have to, if they want to bounce back. Mentally tough people have a positive attitude because they choose to or it’s hardwired into them. They approach challenges looking for the positives and the best outcomes.

We all need to be resilient right now to scope with and adapt to our new circumstances. However, the people who will thrive are those who use their mental powers to keep them positive and confident in the face of every situation.

Can you develop mental toughness?

Mental toughness can be developed. Sometimes it’s gained through experience, but it can also be built with coaching. Remember – it’s an attitude, it’s preparation and it’s self-awareness. When you learn to think differently about challenges or problems, and see them as opportunities, you can perform better and lead with confidence. You perform consistently under pressure and find more enjoyment in the work you do.

I’m hoping you’re a strong and resilient person, but if you’d like to give yourself a leadership advantage, work on your mental toughness. In unforgiving times like these, where stress and change is par for the course, it’s the mentally tough who will come out on top. If you’d like to be one of those confident and positive leaders, you might like to work with me for one-on-one coaching which we can do in person or virtually. Take control of your year and your career. Call me today.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your experiences with resilience and mental toughness. Let’s chat about it in the comments below.

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