Mental Toughness:Courage Under Fire

A few months ago I wrote an article on “A Call To Leadership”. In the article I highlighted the need for a new leadership paradigm in every sphere of our life – church, politics, business, family among others. At the time, Kenya was burning. Today as I write Zimbabwe is experiencing a constitutional crisis. I salute Zimbabweans for their sense of humour in the face of great challenges – all the jokes about children named “Harmonised, Rigged, Ballot, Free and Fair (twins)”. However right now what’s happening there is not funny. Every Zimbabwean and indeed the whole world have been on an emotional roller coaster over the last 2 weeks. How can one survive an adverse environment? I want to share about a quality which makes you a champion in any environment – Mental Toughness.

Mental Toughness

Mental toughness is the ability to consistently sustain one’s ideal performance state in spite of competition or environment. It has roots in sports psychology. In competitive sports the winner is not always the most skilful, but the one with the highest threshold in terms of mental toughness. In practical terms, it is your ability to overcome challenges, through controlling yourself, commitment to your goals and confidence in your abilities. Mental toughness is learnt, not inherited. The ultimate measure of mental toughness is consistency. I want to share with you the 4 C’s you need to become a champion anywhere, any day.


Champions revel in challenges and not problems. A challenge is the extent to which you see problems as opportunities. It is also known as change orientation – to what degree are you willing to change yourself to overcome your environment and competition. To play against the best soccer team is a challenge not a problem. It is an opportunity to also become a champion. To compete against Tiger Woods is a challenge and not a problem. To run a business in a hyper inflationary environment is a challenge not a problem. Having no money in your bank account is a challenge not a problem. To be diagnosed with HIV or diabetes is challenge not a problem. Are you a champion?


To be a champion you need to control yourself and your environment. You need to have attention control. It is the ability to tune to what is important and what is not important. You are not sensitive to everything including what your environment , mind or your body is telling you. The newspapers and TV might be saying all sorts of negative stuff – so what! You are not controlled by sickness, lack or criticism – you take instructions from the Head Office in your heart. You attention is on the right success triggers. You also have attitude control. The right attitude produces emotional control and right flow of energy. To overcome low attitude control, identify positive and negative attitudes. Control negative emotions like fear, anger, envy, frustration and temper. Negative energy results in inconsistency. Be energised with joy and determination. It helps you to maintain the required arousal level to achieve peak performance.

You COMMIT To Your Goals

This is “stickability”, which is your ability to carry out tasks successfully despite any problems or obstacles which arise whilst achieving the goal. Champions concentrate their energy and efforts on what they want, blocking out anything or anyone who threatens that focus. You need to concentrate on the attainment of your goals with an intensity that borders on obsession. Once the goals are set, put mental blinders on and move forward with dogged persistence and ferocious tenacity. Let it become your food and drink. Commitment means it is the only thing that matters to you. You rise above politics, economics and social factors and soar to your destination.


This is the self belief to execute goals successfully. You can develop self-confidence with practice. The key ingredient is belief in self. You develop self-confidence by elevation of self-image, learning to stay calm, goal setting, positive thinking and self discipline Confidence feeds into self motivation which is a source of positive energy. It helps you to endure pain, discomfort and self-sacrifice. The majority are primarily motivated by extrinsic motivators, such as money and rewards. A champion like you is motivated intrinsically by dreams, desires and passions. This is a fire that cannot be put out. A fire that burns hot in the coldest night! The key to finding the true power of the individual lies in the deep recesses of the psyche. There is vein of gold in you – just digger deeper. This vein is an emotional high point, known in performance circles as the white moment. The white moment is the strongest emotional driver of performance. It pushes far beyond your threshold of pain, to accomplish feats that to the common man seem impossible.

Champions dwell on the rewards of success. Losers focus on mistakes and failure. Do what’s necessary NOW. Be in the present. Then you don’t have to worry about what happened yesterday or what’s going to happen tomorrow. Thus, two-thirds of your worries disappear. You can’t control what nature and others do. You cannot control politics and economics. You can control your response to what happens.

Soar like an eagle above all the storms! O seh shalom bimromav. Hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu V’al kol Zimbabwe (May He who makes peace in High Places, make peace for Zimbabwe).…. Peace be within your walls, Prosperity within your palaces

One comment

  1. Great post! On the second “C” – commit to your goals – you talk about sticking to your tasks regardless of the obstacles. I agree with the intent – that you have to stay laser-focused and persevere. The key, though, is not necessarily the tasks, but the goal itself – the tasks change as the landscape changes, but the goal stays.

    William Duggan ( wrote a great book on this – “The Art of What Works” – that cites how great strategists, from Napolean to Bill Gates, have applied the principles of clarifying a strategy but being opportunistic in how you get there, based on the conditions you’re dealing with. A worthy read.

    Thanks again for the article on mental toughness!

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