Challenge and Personal Performance: Warrior Mind Podcast #317

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Over five years and going strong!  With over 500,000 downloads from over 9 countries and 5 continents’…. this ischallenge the Warrior Mind Podcast.

In this episode of the Warrior Mind Podcast I’m going to go to go over the last C of mental toughness, Challenge and how it affects personal performance.

This component of Mental Toughness addresses how individuals see and respond to challenge. Challenge represents any activity which is perceived as out of the ordinary and which involves something that is stretching to the individual.

  • It can be some form of change where the individual is being asked to stop carrying out some habitual activity.
  • It can be a challenge where the individual is faced with doing something they have never done before and which takes them to the very edge of their comfort zone and sometime beyond that.
  • It can be a setback (which may arise out of the above) which provides a degree of shock or upset to the individual.

They all have something in common in that they represent risk of some form. The risk is that something might not work out as hoped.

Individuals with a high degree of challenge will respond positively to these situations.  Their mindset will be to see these as opportunities. They will be aware there are risks and they may even experience a sense of fear or disgust. But they will see the opportunity rather than the threat.

Part of that opportunity might be to demonstrate something to themselves, and often to others, that they can deal with the unknown or with the risk associated with doing something they have not done before. They may even see set-back or failure in a positive light – they will see it as an opportunity for learning. They will see all outcomes as positive.

Others will see the same situations differently. They may have the same background and the same or even greater levels of abilities. But their mindset is to see the same situations as threatening. It’s unlikely they will see these as opportunities for self-discovery, for instance.

It is this component that Kobasa identified in her research and which she embedded into her model of Hardiness. What it does is add a positive element to the notion of resilience. In this description, a resilient person wants to be resilient and sees resilience as a positive quality which enables personal development and growth.

 Enjoy this podcast on challenge and mental toughness



We can identify two potential sub-scales to the Challenge component;

  • Preparedness to stretch oneself beyond their comfort zone – with its implications for carrying risk. Seeing the opportunities outweighing the threats.
  • Seeing all outcomes – good and bad – as opportunities for learning (not as evidence that the individual cannot make progress).

The concept of challenge is a significant factor in a wide and common range of situations. The term “challenge” does not mean that it has to actually be a big challenge. It can be something that many will see as something insignificant – even trivial.

As far as the individual is concerned though, it will have significance. Some phobias are like that.

It explains why, sometimes, a talented individual underperforms in a situation where they could reasonably be expected to perform well, and why a moderately but less competent person will exceed expectations. They are said to “punch above their weight”.

We see lots of examples in the workplace. Promotions and presentations often represent challenges for individuals. Change programs are good examples. Redundancy is a particularly hard example.

In education, transition between schools, college and university is a significant challenge for many. It’s one of the explanations for dropout in university and college. Exams are another form of challenge for most – these carry the risk of failure.

Sport is full of challenge. Teams and individuals pitting their wits against better opponents is fairly common place.

To summarize, Challenge is the component of Mental Toughness that comes into play when you are asked to do something that most people would see as a risky and stretching. Many might avoid that risk altogether.

A Mentally Tough person is more likely to say to themselves (and perhaps to others):

  • I can see the brisk and that it might make me uncomfortable, but I can see that, on balance, there are more positives than negatives. So I will do it.
  • Whatever the outcome, I will learn something from the experience. I will not necessarily see failure or setback as something terminal – I can learn from mistakes and the mistakes of others.

If we look for typical behaviors demonstrated by those with low levels of Challenge we might see some of these emerge:

  • They prefer operating in a safe secure and fairly straightforward world. Preferably well within their comfort zone. They do not like shocks and surprises. Change of any sort is normally an uncomfortable experience for them. A predictable world is preferred to one which has a lot of variety and change in it.
  • For this reason they won’t like having to adjust to new places and meeting and dealing with new people. Having to learn new subjects or material is not an enjoyable experience. They are uncomfortable having to learn to deal with new bosses, teachers, suppliers, etc.
  • They respond poorly to competitive types.
  • They tend to be risk averse and will avoid making too much effort – usually trying to avoid drawing attention to themselves.

If we look at typical behaviors demonstrated by those with high levels of Challenge we might see some of these emerge:

  • They like challenge, change and variety. There may get a thrill out of this. The anticipation and excitement which goes with change and challenge will also be a source of energy. It will provide a source of drive for many.
  • They tend to be easily bored. Disliking prolonged routine they may even provoke change. For this reason, they can enjoy problem solving and will frequently be involved in that.
  • They can be competitive, often pushing themselves to achieve more – to achieve personal bests and to acquire new experiences and new knowledge.
  • Quite happy to take risks that others might not, they will often volunteer for things that others might not. They will often be the first to volunteer. Their instinctive orientation to challenge producing a positive default response to the question “who is up for ……?”
  • And they tend to work hard …. And smart.

We’ve looked at typical behaviors of people with high and low levels of Challenge. Approximately two thirds of the population will fall between these “extremes”. Most people exhibit some of the characteristics of both end of the spectrum. Sometimes they will stretch themselves and at other times they will stay in their comfort zones.

You Can’t Improve What You Can’t Measure

The Mental Toughness Questionnaire is an assessment that determines someone’s Mental Strength…at this moment.   The questionnaire also provides tips on improving your Mental Strength.  You can request the Mental Toughness Assessment by going to

Request an Introductory Consultation right now if you wish to learn additional information on expectations, confidence and acceptance

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