The 2 Types of Mental Toughness...And Why We Need To Know the Difference



When we watch the ATP and WTA tour players compete, we have the privilege of watching the mentally toughest players on the planet.

And while it may not seem it while watching from the sidelines, playing at the highest level of the game brings huge levels of pressure that have caused many aspiring tennis players to be driven to mental weakness.

The reason that playing the game of tennis creates such huge pressure is that our human brain tends to interpret it more like a life and death situation, especially for those who commit so much of their lives to it.

But one thing I’ve learned over the years, is that even at the highest level, as we watch mentally tough players compete, there are 2 distinct types of mental toughness which are driven by different motivations and results in very different long term consequences both on and off the court.

I call these ‘Healthy Mental Toughness’ and ‘Unhealthy Mental Toughness’.

And while players like Federer and Nadal obviously are filled with healthy mental toughness, you might be surprised to know just how many of the top 100 players, especially some young phenoms, are likely driven by unhealthy mental toughness.

Here are 4 differences between the two…

1.) What Drives Them

Healthy MT: A love of competition and achievement motivation

Unhealthy MT: Avoidance of shame, fear, and a lack of perceived personal choice over one’s life

2.) Success Duration

Healthy MT: Leads to long term success

Unhealthy MT: Leads to short term success and then a breakdown in player mental toughness

3.) Internal Experience

Healthy MT: Life long love of the game

Unhealthy MT: Discontent and sometimes a hate of the game because of personal meaning

4.) Personal Consequences

Healthy MT: Promotes personal well being and skills that support success in other life domains

Unhealthy MT: Undermines personal well-being and skills.