Mental Toughness for Entrepreneurs: A Complete Resource and Guide

Mental Toughness for Entrepreneurs 

In business, as in most aspects of life, it's your mental game that has the most impact on how far you can go. 

If you're trying to run a business and you struggle to manage the complexities, uncertainties, stresses and pressures that you confront on a daily basis, both you and your business are likely to suffer irreparable damage. 

That is why mental toughness is probably the number one performance-related concept that business owners and entrepreneurs need to grasp if they want to develop the psychological tools needed to build a sustainable business.

Martin Cole

I am Martin Cole. I am a professionally certified performance and development coach and have a Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Coaching Psychology. 

I am also an accredited mental toughness practitioner, licensed to administer the MTQ mental toughness suite of psychometric tests. 

My mission with the Self Determined Life is to help entrepreneurs and business owners to develop the mental tools and capabilities they need to build their businesses successfully and sustainably.

With this mental toughness resource, as well as with my coaching and teaching, I aim to help you do exactly that. Read on to find our what mental toughness is, how you can measure your levels of mental toughness and much more.

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mental toughness cheat sheet

There are various definitions of mental toughness and a range of different models for what it is.

I like the way that mental toughness is described by Professor Peter Clough and Doug Strycharczyk (see Books below).  

They define mental toughness as "the quality which determines in large part how people deal effectively with challenge, stressors and pressure ... irrespective of prevailing circumstances.”

Mental toughness for entrepreneurs and business owners

Looking at this definition, it's easy to see how critical mental toughness is for entrepreneurs and business owners.  As Richard Branson says:​

"There are few certainties in business, except that you will be faced with adversity and fail from time to time. Every entrepreneur’s success story is a tale of constant adaptation, revision and change.  When you come across a situation that’s unpleasant, difficult or challenging, you can decide to give up, re-adjust, or turn it to your advantage. Obstacles and challenges are integral to an entrepreneur’s work – don’t let them dissuade you from getting the job done or prevent you from realising your dreams."

What exactly is mental toughness?

It's one thing to know that mental toughness is important. But it's another to know how you can develop it.

The best place to start is by trying to get a better understanding of what mental toughness actually is.

Research by Clough and his academic colleagues, suggests mental toughness consists of four components:

  • Commitment – This is the ability to remain active and focused on the task at hand despite difficulties that may arise. This involves setting goals and acting to achieve them.
  • Control – feeling able to influence how you feel about what is going on, and how events unfold.
  • Challenge – This involves seeing stress as a normal part of life and an opportunity to learn, develop and grow. It also involves the capacity to accept risk and push yourself out of your comfort zone to succeed.
  • Confidence – This is the belief that you can successfully complete what you set out to do. It involves belief in your abilities and in your interpersonal skills.

The  advantage of this model, as I see it, is that it means mental toughness can be measured at a quite granular level. As a result,  when you are looking to increase your levels of mental toughness, you can identify the specific elements that you should focus on to get the best return on effort.  As a coach, this means I can help clients in a targeted way. 

A different view of mental toughness

Other researchers, for example Daniel Gucciardi, conceptualise mental toughness in a different way.

Gucciardi defines mental toughness as "a personal capacity to produce consistently high levels of subject performance (e.g. progress towards goals) or objective performance (e.g. sales, or academic results), despite everyday challenges and stressors as well as significant adversities".


Gucciardi's research suggests that mental toughness is best thought of as a one dimensional, rather that four dimensional construct.

But Gucciardi's research also suggest that mental toughness expresses itself in the individual as more of a state that a trait. This suggests that mental toughness can vary across circumstances and time.  

Developing mental toughness

Despite the different ways of characterising mental toughness, there is little doubt that it is a capacity that plays a substantial part in enabling people to resist stress and acheive high levels of performance.

This is why mental toughness is so important for entrepreneurs, business owners and freelancers, as they battle against the odds to carve out sustainable and developing businesses.

Of course, in this day and age, professionals and executives inside organisations face similar challenges and can equally benefit from elevated levels of mental toughness.

The good news is that despite the different ways of describing mental toughness amongst the experts, there is considerable agreement upon the fact that, with the right guidance, mental toughness can be developed.

That is why I have developed this metal toughness resource and why I focus on helping entrepreneurs and others to develop mental toughness in my coaching and teaching.


Developing mental toughness: coaching strategies to improve performance, resilience and wellbeing. Peter Clough and Doug Strycharczyk. Kogan Page Publishers, 2015.

Gucciardi, D. F., Hanton, S., Gordon, S., Mallett, C. J., & Temby, P. (2015). The concept of mental toughness: tests of dimensionality, nomological network, and traitness. Journal of Personality83(1), 26-44.

Are you tough enough?

Take the fully validated, evidence-based Mental Toughness Test (the MTQ). For access to the the test and coaching packages, click on the button below.

The Podcast: Mental Toughness for Entrepreneurs

Mental Toughness Around the Web

Mental Toughness Books

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