Who are mentally tougher – Japanese or Australians?

I’m an Aussie briefly living and working in Tokyo and I am really appreciating and enjoying the people and the place.  What follows is a superficial, personal and non-scientific view of the mental toughness qualities of the two nationalities and how they might fare in a Mental Toughness World Cup showdown.

As always, I welcome any feedback and suggestions on alternative scores.

There are many definitions of mental toughness as a personality trait, globally and across all sporting and non-sporting sectors. However, the one with the most validity and reliability is the definition that was subsequently developed by the rock stars of mental toughness, Peter Clough and Doug Strycharczyk, who defined mental toughness as:

“the quality which determines in a large part how individuals respond to stress, pressure and to challenge… irrespective of prevailing circumstances”

They have developed the MTQ48 psychometric measure, which comprises a model of mental toughness featuring the 4C’s of:

  • Control
  • Commitment
  • Challenge
  • Confidence

Furthermore they believe mental toughness is a combination of resilience and confidence, with control and commitment forming resilience, and challenge and confidence forming confidence.  Resilience is the ability to survive and confidence is the ability to flourish both of which are crucial elements in personal and organisational success.

After that important preamble let’s get into the match up.

Japanese have more resilience

I rate the Japanese people very highly on resilience using the C’s of control and commitment. As a country they have a very clear, pure and accepted sense of order and national pride and identity.  As individuals they know what they stand for and what their role and purpose in life is.  They are very disciplined and controlled, calm and polite and it is rare to see emotional outbursts anywhere in a public place.  When this control was tested in situations like the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the general public knew what to do and they naturally behaved orderly and impeccably in the aftermath. There was a more diminished sense of chaos than there may have been in other countries.

I would be rating them as a 9 out of a possible 10 in control.

In terms of commitment their technical excellence and ability to introduce and adhere to processes to achieve goals and targets puts them at the top or close to the top of the world stage along with probably the Germans and Koreans. They are very focused on achieving consistent outcomes.

In terms of rating I would again put them near the top of the scale – perhaps another 8 out of 10.

The strong characteristics of Japanese people, which include hardworking, respectful, formal, polite, punctual and focused are all-reflective of their control and commitment.  However, an imminent challenge to this will come from disruptive technology and globalisation, which threatens to fracture Japanese society and the traditional institutions they hold in high esteem. If these falter how resilient will they be?

In contrast, the Australian people, being a dynamic composite of many different nationalities under the broad umbrella of “being an Aussie” have a far more varied and individual notion of control and commitment.  Whilst some Aussies may have greater discipline and focus, I don’t believe it’s the case at a national level.

A simple comparison would be the national pride around keeping the surroundings clean and tidy when multiple groups descend on a public area for a picnic or BBQ. In Tokyo it would be as clean and as spotless after the multitudes had left as it would have been before they arrived. In Australia, some groups would have taken their rubbish, others would have added to the overflowing bins and albeit a small minority left a litter trail.

So, on control it is more like a 4 out of 10 for Australia and perhaps 6 out of 10 on commitment as on the whole Australians are committed and hard working.

HALF-TIME SCORE:             JAPAN – 17              AUSTRALIA – 10

Australians have more confidence

The Australians as a nationality are more driven and outwardly confident than their Japanese counterparts.  Many Australians are first or second generation Australians meaning they or their parents have uprooted their lives and families to settle in a new country often far away. They have seized the opportunity and taken risks to explore a new life and in a new hard and harsh country they have had to work hard to make things happen.  Australians are individualistic, driven, ambitious, adaptable, used to making decisions and living with change.  The education system encourages debate and individual thinking and discussion rather than conformity.

Overall I think challenge is the great strength Australians possess and I award them a 9 out of 10.

In terms of confidence Australia again score highly. They “punch above their weight” and they relish the underdog status be it on the sporting field or elsewhere and as consumers they support the underdogs against the more conservative establishment players. Again with some ethnic variances Aussies are generally outward going and very happy to give an opinion and challenge authority although this sometimes becomes excessive.  In terms of national characteristics the Aussies’ egalitarianism, sense of fair go, dislike of formality and outward going nature all create a high sense of self confidence.

I would give them an 8 out of 10.

In contrast the strong sense of formality and national pride the Japanese have stifles innovation and risk taking. They tend to be followers rather than leaders and in my opinion this is one of their greatest challenges (no pun intended) and so I rate them a 4 out of 10 on challenge.  In terms of confidence they rate well on confidence in their abilities because they prepare and know their subject well although their calm reserved approach and a reluctance to express a negative opinion can certainly affect their interpersonal confidence and ability to influence without a formal reporting structure.

This is a 6 out of 10 on confidence.

FULL TIME SCORE:            JAPAN – 27             AUSTRALIA – 27

With the score being equal at full time we’ll have to go to penalties which will certainly test the mental toughness of both nationalities!

Published by Paul Lyons

Paul Lyons is an experienced chief executive, leadership coach and mental toughness professional and you can reach him via paul@paullyons.com or via his website at www.paullyons.com

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