is mental toughness a skill

Is Mental Toughness A Skill That Is Taught or Caught?

The nature vs. nurture question is referenced almost as much as sports announcers decrying “momentum” or “showing good effort.” 

Ad nauseam.

Let’s try and answer it here.

First, some individuals have faster speed or better looks or higher intelligence, these skills can also be trained and enhanced (doing sprints, speed work, wearing make-up, working out, reading, etc.). Now, it doesn’t mean you’ll look like Denzil Washington or run like Alison Felix, but these skills can still be enhanced. 

The mental skills that one possesses also has innate qualities.

Some of us have a more high-strung, fast paced approach, whereas others can be more type-B and relaxed, quiet, and reserved. 

Either approach toward life can work, because personality tests have shown that there is no one size fits all personality toward success.

See our article how a change in personality won two Super Bowls

However, this only addresses the nature vs. nurture debate, is mental toughness is a skill that can be taught or caught? 

Second, The skills of focus, confidence, motivation, and how to re-focus can indeed be taught. It’s what we do!

However, there is always an impetus for investing in oneself. Thus, is mental toughness a skill that is caught more than taught? 

There is always a hinge moment! One moment, person, decision or event that makes all the difference in our lives! It’s this hinge moment that is sometimes caught. 

Herschel Walker was bullied and beaten as a kid. Then, one day after he was roughed up, he simply said “no more!” And he transformed himself, not into the best football player, but a Superhero! His mental toughness was caught!

Joe Burrow was drafted #1 overall and led his LSU Tigers to a national championship. However, at Ohio State University, he served as a back-up to two different quarterbacks and was forced to transfer. Hinge moment…

Diana Nyad completed the toughest swim ever, 110 miles from Cuba to The United States. Her motivation was a Hinge moment. She hadn’t swam in years, yet on her 60th birthday, she knew deep down her best years were ahead of her. Or one could look at the abuse she encountered as a kid that helped shape her. 

Examine your own life.

  • Was it a coach who told you that you weren’t good enough?
  • Was it the death of a loved one?
  • Could it have been an addiction that you were forced to overcome, or an amount of weight that you knew you needed to lose?

These are all Hinge moments

Is Mental Toughness a skill that can be taught? Indeed…

But, it is caught way more than it is taught!

The lessons of becoming mentally tough are numerous.

Watch enough documentaries, listen to enough podcasts, hang out with coaches, and read about successful people and you will indeed absorb the teachings necessary to assist with the mental game

Nonetheless, we define mental toughness as: how we deal, handle and cope with adversity. 

The more adversity one encounters also increases the chances of failure. However, only through the failure and setbacks and adversity, does it also provide one the fodder they need to comeback. This is why it is caught! 

Mental Toughness is a reserved seat at the table only for those that persevere and come out on the other end.  But, you’ll have to decide: Is mental toughness a skill that is caught or taught. Send us an email with your thoughts…


dr rob bell speakerDr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. DRB & associates coach executives and professional athletes. Some clients have included three different winners on the PGA Tour, Indy Eleven, University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens.