The Keys to Developing Mental Toughness [Video]

In this TEDx video Dr. Sean Richardson, who has a PhD in performance psychology and who has spent much of his career working with high performing athletes from around the world, shares lessons learned from his career to provide an overview of the subtleties of human brain, and to show how these can be used to overcome barriers to success.

Tune in for insights on how working with feelings and not against them; keeping an eye on the big picture and delaying instant gratification, and “failing 100 percent” will help you develop the mental toughness that will bring you success in life.

Key Messages

Develop a growth mindset

Richardson draws on the seminal work of the esteemed Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck, whose work on “growth mindset” is taught all over the world. A growth mindset believes that success is based on hard work, learning, training and perseverance; it is an “incremental” theory of intelligence. Growth mindsets can be identified by observing a person’s behaviour, particularly in their response to failure.

In contrast people with fixed mindsets, interpret failure as a judgement of their basic abilities, because they have an implicit belief that their capabilities are fixed, limited, pre-determined. Those with a growth mindset are more easily able to accept failure because they view it as merely feedback on their performance, an indicator for further effort. Dweck has argued that it is a growth mindset that will enable a person to live a successful life. She gave her definition of both fixed and growth mindsets in an interview for One Dublin:

On fixed mindsets:

In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that…”

On growth mindsets:

“In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it."

Treat the evolutionary call for ‘fight or flight’ with discernment

Richardson acknowledges that in today’s world of instant gratification, it will not be easy to delay that gratification and “keep an eye on the big picture”. He says our response is an evolutionary one; we are hardwired to act in the face of perceived threats. Uncertainty and inaction are not easy bedfellows; they are “counter instinctual”.

He makes the point that few of us in the West face the kinds of threats that require evolutionary fight of flight responses, “except to our egos”. Our neocortex can override the limbic system, which is where our evolutionary hard-wired fight or flight response is triggered. We can simply choose not to respond to the compulsion to react if we don’t need to react. This, he says, requires discernment of whether the issue you are facing is one of survival or willpower.

Mental toughness will not happen overnight, but it can be developed. This video shows you how.

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