Do you tend to be optimistic about the future, good at dealing with difficulties, and able to cope well with setbacks? Don’t worry, you don’t have to send a letter of application now, but if you find these qualities in yourself, you likely have high mental strength.   

You hear the term mental toughness often, but what does that mean? Simply put, people with high mental toughness expect that they can make a difference in the world and view themselves as impactful. In addition, people have a greater ability to regulate their emotions positively, which empowers them to take proactive steps and make choices that will positively impact their future. 

Mental strength consists of six facets according to the positive self-management model: 

Sounds great, but how can I promote my mental strength? 

To promote mental strength, you can explore techniques from positive psychology and acquire practical skills that are valuable in everyday life and work settings. 

Suitable techniques are, for example:    

In addition to these positive psychology exercises, the mentioned competencies are important in everyday life and at work. If you have these skills, it is easier to achieve goals, as we have already learned.  

What are these competencies, and which of them might you already have?    


Time and energy management: Do you know what you need to do and how to go about achieving your goals? People who consciously and purposefully dedicate their time and energy to completing tasks possess a strong aptitude for managing their time and energy effectively. They can also plan, coordinate and implement their appointments and tasks well and avoid distractions. You may already have this competency if you make the best use of your time and work efficiently and effectively.    

Planning and organization: If you’re the go-to person for planning trips and find yourself naturally organizing your day-to-day activities, chances are you possess strong skills in tasks that demand organization, systematic thinking, prioritization, and coordination. Individuals with these skills have the ability to anticipate the future and envision how tasks will be accomplished. 

Self-motivation and goals: Can you motivate yourself even in the face of resistance and handle setbacks well? Then you have high skills in self-motivation and goal setting. People with these skills can clearly define goals and motivate themselves to achieve them. They can cope better with unpleasant tasks, generating emotions that fuel their motivation and drive them forward. 

Self-PR: Do you know your strengths and how to use them? Then you have a high level of self-PR competence. People with this skill can successfully present their abilities and achievements. For these people, their goals align with their self-marketing, which is the basis for successful self-PR. In addition, they possess the flexibility to adapt effortlessly, knowing when to actively engage and when to take a more passive role. 

Methodological competencies   

Problem-solving skills: Whether at school, university, or work, everyone encounters situations that require problem-solving skills. What qualities are characteristic of individuals who excel in problem-solving? Frequently, people with a strong analytical mindset possess the know-how to articulate their problems and tackle them methodically, step by step. To do so requires analyzing the causes and effects of problems and then transforming these undesirable states into desirable ones.    

Creativity and brainstorming: Closely related to problem-solving skills are creativity and brainstorming. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be Picasso to do this, and it’s not about art in that sense. Rather, the goal is to develop new products, services, or useful ideas. People with a high skill level in this area are innovative and flexible, experiment with different methods, and readily adapt by discarding ineffective strategies. They are less afraid of mistakes and see them as part of a creative process to achieve desired results.  

Presentation skills: Presenting plans, ideas, results, solutions, and successes plays a role almost everywhere, whether in the world of work or in the question of which movie to watch at the next movie night. People who always manage to convince everyone else of their choice and win them over (but then always choose the same movie) have high presentation skills. These people can present their topics confidently and convince rhetorically. Through their confident appearance and skillful body language (especially facial expressions and gestures), they can explain complicated contexts simply and adapt flexibly to their interlocutors.    

Social competencies   

Appreciative communication: Communication, by whatever means, is the basis of interpersonal relationships. Appreciative communication promotes mutual understanding, the basis of which is to avoid devaluations and have a friendly view of oneself and others. Needs and feelings are important; accusations and blame should be avoided accordingly. Instead, the focus is on understanding, compromise, and constructive solutions.   

Empathy: The basis of this appreciative communication is also empathy, i.e., the ability to recognize the feelings, motives, and problems of the opposite person and act empathetically. Empathic people are good at putting themselves in the shoes of others and recognizing when others need advice or guidance. They are good listeners, signal trust, and express themselves appreciatively according to the situation. Empathic individuals can interpret speech or mimic feedback well and adjust themselves accordingly to the speaker.   

Conflict competence: Despite the name – conflict competence does not mean you know how best to start conflicts. When interacting socially with others, there is always potential for conflict. However, since very few people are able to live a solitary life, it is important to deal with conflicts meaningfully and find solutions. People with a high level of conflict competence are, therefore, able to recognize, analyze, and solve conflicts. They see conflict as an opportunity for improvement. They can understand the other person’s point of view, identify the reason for dissatisfaction and show a willingness to find solutions.


But what is mental strength good for? 

Now that we know which competencies contribute to mental toughness, the question naturally arises as to what long-term effects mental toughness has. Simply put, mental toughness should make you feel better in the long run. Positive feelings such as life satisfaction, happiness, flourishing, job satisfaction, and mental health should be improved. Negative consequences such as burnout tendencies, psychosomatic complaints, stress, and depressive distress should be avoided.  

And because life is a circle (Hakuna Matata), there is also an upward spiral here. Positive emotions lead to more success, leading to more positive emotions and better skills, leading to more success. This sets in motion the positive upward spiral that helps you everywhere in your everyday life. 

Author: Prof. Dr. Ottmar Braun