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I had a coaching session today, which reaffirmed the simplicity and power of the 4C’s mental toughness framework. It is so simple to understand, communicate and use for personal development across many different situations. I felt it was worth revisiting through a post.

Mental Toughness is a personality trait that improves performance and wellbeing meaning that you are more likely to be successful in your personal and professional life.

Mental Toughness is defined as:

Resilience – the ability to bounce back from setbacks and failures


Confidence – the ability to spot and seize opportunities.

Mentally Tough people are more outcomes focused and are better at making things happen without being distracted by their own or other peoples’ emotions. Mental Toughness can be measured using the MTQ48 psychometric tool, which was constructed by Professor Peter Clough of Manchester Metropolitan University and commercialised by AQR, the innovative psychometric business. It is scientifically valid and reliable and based on the 4C’s mental toughness framework, which measures key components of mental toughness – Control, Commitment, Challenge and Confidence.


Control is your self-esteem, your life’s purpose and your sense of control over your life and emotions. Control is the extent to which you feel you are in control of your life and that you can make a difference and change things. If you are high on control you have a good sense of who you are and what you stand for and are “comfortable in your own skin”. You are also better able to control your emotions meaning you are able to keep your anxieties in check and are less likely to be distracted by the emotions of others or reveal your emotional state to other people. Conversely, if you are at the other end of the scale, low on control, you will feel that events happen to you and are outside your personal control or influence.


Commitment is your focus and reliability. Being high on commitment means that you are able to effectively set goals and targets and reliably and consistently achieve them without being distracted. You are strong at establishing routines and habits that enable you to be successful. Conversely, if you are at the other end of the scale, low on commitment, you will sometimes fail or find it difficult to set goals and targets and then prioritize them .You may also find it difficult to focus and be easily distracted by other people and competing priorities. You rarely adopt routines or habits to make you successful.

The Control and Commitment scales together represent the Resilience part of the Mental Toughness definition, namely the ability to bounce back from setbacks and opportunities. This intuitively, as well as scientifically, makes sense because if you face a setback or failure your momentum slows or stops altogether and you naturally question yourself and revisit your self-identity. You then either reaffirm and reassess who you are and then develop some momentum to enable you to bounce back. You do this by setting and achieving a series of goals and targets, often small and simple at first, to rebuild your confidence and return to your chosen path.


Challenge is your drive and adaptability. Being high on challenge means that you are driven to be as good as you can be and to achieve your personal best. You see challenges, change, adversity and variety as opportunities rather than threats. You are likely to be adaptable and agile. Conversely, if you are at the other end of the scale, low on challenge, you view change as a threat and so avoid new and challenging situations for fear of failure or wishing not to expend what you perceive will be a wasted effort.


Confidence is your self-belief and influence and describes to what extent you believe you have the ability to perform productively and proficiently and the ability to influence others. Being high on confidence means that you have the self-belief to successfully complete on tasks that other individuals with similar ability but lower confidence would think beyond them. In practice if you are high on Confidence you will take setbacks, whether internally or externally generated, in your stride. You will keep your head, maintain your routine and often stiffen your resolve. However if you are low on confidence you can easily be unsettled by the setback and feel undermined. Your head could drop. Your internal voice’s positive commentary is vital here to counteract this loss of confidence and negativity.

The Challenge and Confidence scales together represent the Confidence part of the Mental Toughness definition, namely your ability to spot and seize an opportunity. This intuitively, as well as scientifically, makes sense because if you are a risk taker you see more situations more clearly as opportunities and are willing to embrace and explore them. If you are confident in your abilities and you easily engage with others, you are also much more likely to convert the potential opportunity of these situations into successful outcomes.

The MTQ48 is both popular and versatile, used globally across all sectors and in culture, leadership organisational change, career transition and stress management situations. It is an ideal measure for recruitment consultants who enjoy and endure high stress public facing roles, comprising uncertainty, pace and rapidly changing priorities. It gives them a profile, which they can use as a starting point to reflect and then work on developing their mental toughness using a toolbox of traditional interventions such as visualisation, positive thinking and attentional control and others.

Paul Lyons is an experienced CEO who coaches leaders to improve their performance and wellbeing by developing their mental toughness and mindset using the mental toughness framework. You can find him at and