Use This Technique To Develop Your Mental Toughness


I work with many individuals and leaders who are looking to enhance their mental toughness so as to better manage either personal or workplace challenges.

Let’s face it…Life can be damn challenging sometimes!!

We need to be able to have tangible strategies to manage the daily stressors we have in our life and feel we can rise to the challenge rather than feel daunted by the challenge.

Mental Toughness can be described as not only the ability to be able to strike back after adversity strikes, but the ability to be exposed to change and challenges and demonstrate the capacity to thrive irrespective of the prevailing circumstances.

I work with individuals and teams to enhance understanding of the 4C model of Mental Toughness.

Control –means having a sense of self-worth and describes the extent to which a person feels in control of their life and their circumstances. Importantly it also describes the extent to which they can control their own emotional response.

Commitment –is about goal orientation and ‘stickability’ and describes the extent to which someone is prepared to set goals and then make measurable promises that they will work hard to deliver the outcome of the goal set.

Challenge –describes the extent to which the individual will push back their boundaries, embrace change and accept risk. It’s also about what they take away from the challenge and see the learning opportunity that this presents.

Confidence –describes the self-belief an individual has in their own abilities and the interpersonal confidence they have to influence others and deal with conflict and challenge.

4 C’s

4 C’s

This one technique I would like to share enhances our ability to control our emotional responses when faced with stressors or challenges.

The first step is to identify your ANT – your Automatic Negative Thought. Many of us basically let our ANTs walk all over us.

These ANTs are basically cognitive distortions and we can start to recognise these distortions or traps that we often fall into.

There are 10 big distortions that can occur:

1.   All or nothing thinking. When you see things in black and white instead of in shades of grey. Example: I’m a failure.

2.   Overgeneralization. When you extend a negative thought so it reaches even further. Example: I never do anything right.

3.   Mental filter. When you filter out all the good stuff to focus on the bad. Example: I didn’t accomplish anything today.

4.   Disqualifying the positive. When you believe a good or positive thing “doesn’t count” toward your larger pattern of failure and negativity. Example: I guess I survived the talk — even broken clocks are right twice a day.

5.   Catastrophising  - Your predict the future negatively without considering more likely outcomes. “I’ll be so upset, I won’t be able to function at all”

6.   Magnification or minimization. When you exaggerate your own mistakes (or other people’s accomplishments or happiness) while minimising your own accomplishments. Example: Everyone saw me mess up at that project, while she performed perfectly.

7.   Emotional reasoning. When you assume your negative feelings reflect the truth. Example: I felt embarrassed, therefore must have seen that.

8.   Should and Must statements. When you beat yourself up for not doing things differently. Example: I should’ve kept my mouth shut.

9.   Labelling. When you use a small negative event or feeling to give yourself a huge, general label. Example: I forgot to do the report. I’m a total idiot.

10.         Personalization. When you make things personal that aren’t. Example: The dinner party was bad because I was there.


Which 3 ANTs are you most guilty of?


If we recognise that our thinking and our automatic thoughts lead to our emotional response, our challenge is to manage more successfully our thoughts and modify or “reframe” this first “automatic” thought.

We need to recognise when our ANTs are crawling under our skin and make those ANTs our PETs – our Performance Enhancing Thoughts.

Consider a situation in which you experienced an extreme emotional response. How did you think and feel? Where you engaging in an automatic thought you can now identify? Could you have turned your ANT into a PET (a Performance Enhancing Thought)?


Here’s how you do it:

1.   Make four columns on a sheet of paper.

2.   In the first column, write down your ANT your Automatic Negative Thought - your crappy, mean little voice. You can be as brief or detailed as you’d like. For example, “My day was the worst. My presentation bombed, my boss hates me, and I’ll probably get fired”.

3.   Now read your statement (it always looks kind of shocking to see it in print) and look for the cognitive distortions to write in the second column. There may be just one or more than one. In this example, there are at least four: overgeneralization, all or nothing thinking, mental filter, and catastrophising.

4.   In the third column, write down how this ANT makes you feel – what is your emotion experienced when you think this way.

5.   In column four – Write your PET – or more “rational response.” This is when you think logically about what you’re feeling and rewrite your automatic thought. Using the example, you might write, “My presentation could’ve gone better, but I’ve had lots of successful presentations in the past and I can learn from this one. My boss was confident enough to have me lead the presentation, and I can talk to her tomorrow about how I can improve. There’s no evidence at all that this one situation might get me fired.”

You can write as many or as few automatic thoughts as you want. After a good day, you might not have any, and after a big event or conflict, you might have to work through a lot.


Now You Try………


Want some assistance developing the mental toughness of you or your team? Contact Michelle on 0412047590 or via michelle@bakjacconsulting, or check here to review Bakjac Consulting’s website for more information.

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner. Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.