The Difference between Resilience and Mental Toughness

25th November 2022

Read time: 3 minutes


As I grew up in sport, I knew that to make it to the top, it was going to require mental toughness and resilience.

The trouble was, I thought they were the same thing.

Until I realised and learned that they aren’t, even though they will always be used interchangeably.

So this week we’ll look at what the subtle differences are and when you may be able to use them in your life.

The official definitions:

When you read the definitions, you realise they are very similar in their stoic way of being, yet do have some differences.

The way I like to think about it is this.

Resilience is strength after an event.

Toughness is strength in the event.

So in my view, it’s possible to be high in mental resilience, and low in mental toughness, and vice versa.

Imagine that your goal is to run a 5K…


Scenario 1

You set out on your run, but you get 3 kilometres in and your mind starts to tell you to “stop” or “slow down.”, “this sucks.”, “did I leave my hair curlers on?”.

At this point, you can choose to engage in mental toughness, to fight through it, grit your teeth a little more, and make it through the run.

But when you get home, you don’t want to put yourself through that again. And you choose not to go on the run the next day.


Scenario 2

At 3 kilometres, you give in to the pain of the run and walk home.

Yet the next morning, you get up and go again in an attempt to do better.


Scenario 1 had high mental toughness but low resilience.

Scenario 2 had low mental toughness but high resilience.


So the sweet spot is to have a blend of both, ideally, the higher the better.

Being resilient will help us create longer-term success. To keep coming back and trying again, whether in the face of failure or success.

Having mental toughness will help us push ourselves in the present, look for ways to improve, and deal with the pain that comes with growth.

So now that we know the difference between them, how do we go about developing them?

I have a few ideas:

How to build your resilience.

😌 Acceptance

Acceptance of what has just happened.

When you’re unable to move past events, you allow them to take hold of you. Have power over you.

The goal is forward movement. In order to do that, accept what has just happened and look to take some form of action.

🌍 Perspective

Having a grand scope of the situation.

Is this failure that has happened really that bad?

Chances are that it is a small dot in the entire painting that is your story.

📓 Habits, Actions, Priorities

Creating solid routines, habits and actions allows you to stay on track, regardless of what is happening to you.

I think about when I injured my back, I was soon in the gym doing what I could to strengthen my body because I had created a habit and routine of going.

How to build your mental toughness.

🗯️ Self Talk / Mantras

If something is difficult in the moment, using your self talk is one way of being able to motivate you to put in effort.

I speak about that in a bit more detail here

🔑 Values

Our values help us bring out the version of our best self.

Perhaps one of your values could be ‘courage’. And through that value, you exhibit persistence or, like the above, create a mantra of “Keep going”.

💭 Visualisation

Seeing yourself be mentally tough in a challenging moment.

Inspire yourself by view it through the eyes of someone else.


There we go, hopefully this starts to get you to think a bit more about what your own situations may need of you.

Ask yourself:

Do I need a bit more mental toughness right now?

Is now a time to be resilient?

If the answer is yes. Great. Employ some of the above.

Let me know how you best employ your resilience and mental toughness.

Whenever you're ready, there is a couple of ways I can help you:

MindStrong Sport App – Mental Skills Training for Athletes

Personal Mindset Coaching - Contact for more

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