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Mental Toughness for January and Beyond

In the UK January has come to mean a month of abstinence, often linked to our New Year’s Resolutions.   It can be quite grim to think of the long days ahead in a month that is renowned for its lack of light and poor weather without those comforts that we have grown to love, and of which we have decided to deprive ourselves. But if we think about all the new activities we have promised to take up, perhaps we can change our perspective into looking to achieve a brighter future, whether it is because we have decided to exercise more, see our friends more, walk more, write more, study more, the desires to be a better person are actually uplifting.

In order to keep our resolve, we need a measure of mental toughness. Last year the Independent School Council published an interesting report on Mental Toughness. Their findings are of great interest to all educators and confirm, perhaps what many in education have known in their bones for some time, that how tough a student is mentally has significant impact on their academic achievement. They identified four ‘C’s: Control: managing emotions of self and of others as well as the control of physical impulses; Commitment: being able to set goals and a commitment to keep them; Challenge: being comfortable with taking risks and learning from failure; Confidence: self-belief in acquiring ability, without the need of validation from others and an ability to influence and engage with others and stand your ground if needed.

Mental toughness is not something students are born with; it is our job as educators, to help them develop these skills. By focusing on them we are also going some way to help them keep to their New Year’s Resolutions.