Want to be successful in life? Know this: It takes a special kind of fortitude that separates the elite from average performers. When the going gets tough, the tough don’t get going –they reach for a winning prescription called mental toughness.

What’s mental toughness all about? It’s been described as the “ability to work hard and respond resiliently to failure and adversity; the inner quality that enables individuals to work hard and stick to their long-term passions and goals.”

Steve Siebold, mental toughness expert and author of 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class, teaches that a person of average intelligence and modest means can become world-class by implementing the thinking, habits, and philosophies associated with this principle. Vince Lombardi believed that mental toughness was one of the most important leadership skills you could attain. Psychologist Angela Duckworth has based her life’s work on it (she refers to it as “grit”) and believes that it’s a true predictor of success.

The “4 Cs of Mental Toughness”

Psychologist Dr. Peter Clough developed the “Mental Toughness Training Model,” a psychometric assessment measure that enables users to assess their mental toughness in four core areas:

  1. Confidence
  2. Challenge
  3. Control
  4. Commitment

Here’s how you can use these things to your advantage and become more mentally tough:

1. Confidence

Do you believe in yourself and your abilities? Can you effectively navigate conflict and challenges? Do you have well-developed social skills?

People who are self-confident believe that they can achieve success despite any obstacles they encounter. They work hard to develop themselves in competitive environments. They are proactive, decisive, and courageous in spite of fear. Take Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran for example. She had a terrible fear of public speaking, but she knew that she had to embrace it, rather than run from it, if she wanted to become successful. Her strategy? She thrust herself into every possible speaking opportunity she could find and worked at it like crazy. Today, she’s in demand on stages all around the globe.

JumpRegarding self-confidence Corcoran says, “Don’t be afraid. Stand up and shout loud and clear enough for everyone to hear: ‘No, I am not stupid.’”

2. Challenge

Do you thrive in environments that constantly change or present new opportunities for learning and growth?

People who embrace challenges tend to have an extraordinary ability to think and work outside the box. They enjoy exercising creativity, exploring innovation, and accepting some degree of risk. Why? Because They are keenly focused on achieving positive outcomes.

Spiritual teacher and The Power of Now author Eckhart Tolle teaches that challenges, difficulties, and uncertainty – all concepts that point to change and upset the status quo –are natural parts of life that should be embraced. He notes that “change is absolutely necessary and offers a new way of being in this world.”

3. Control

Do you feel that you have control over your life and the power to shape your destiny? How do you deal with the ebb and flow of life’s ups and downs?

People with a strong sense of control over their lives tend to be more relaxed and self-confident. They are more connected to their emotions, self-regulating, and motivated to achieve results. They believe that they’ve got the power to influence their outcomes, and lo and behold, they do.

Peak performance expert Tony Robbins developed a five-step process aimed at helping others develop more control and achieve greater results. It’s totally worth taking a closer look, especially as part of developing an overall mental toughness strategy.

4. Commitment

Are you committed to achieving your outcomes? Do you set goals and work consistently to achieve them, even when you experience setbacks?

This is also known as “stickability.” Misty Copeland showed the world she was committed to becoming a prima ballerina, even in the face of unmistakable adversity. Her advice? Stick with it and persevere. It may seem counterintuitive, but “the path to your success is not as fixed and inflexible as you might think,” Copeland says.

Feeling Less Than Mentally Tough?

RoadWhat’s true for sure is that we all need mental toughness to succeed, no matter our background or the industry we’re in. It’s the secret sauce for performing at the top of your game, especially during tough times. And like a lot of other important leadership traits, mental toughness is not something you’re born with. It’s something you develop over time by focusing on the key components, little by little.

Use the four Cs to your advantage, and you will be well on your way to achieving mental toughness – and greater success.

A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.

As the founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport™, Karima Mariama-Arthur brings more than two decades of comprehensive, blue-chip experience in law, business, and academia to the field of professional development. A leading authority in cutting-edge adult education, Karima is distinguished by her commitment to excellence and extraordinary talent for elevating executive brands. As an expert facilitator, executive communications consultant, and strategic leadership advisor, she trains, coaches, and consults individuals and organizations on the dynamics of complex communication and high-performance leadership competence. 

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