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The four C's model

Keith Earle and Peter Clough


In developing the MTQ48, and the four C's model, we attempted to provide both an overall measure of toughness and also provide a more thorough assessment of the elements that underpin this overall score.

In our extensive development work it became apparent that a fourfactor model best represented the mental toughness universe. The model of hardiness put forward by Kobasa (1979) seemed to incorporate most of the elements generated by the existing literature at the time. This provided the starting point for three of the four C's: control, commitment, and challenge. The final C, confidence, emerged from extensive interviews and practical experience.

In this Chapter the four C's will be briefly described and discussed in relation to a wider context of related psychological models and theories.

A summary of the four C's

Mental toughness is represented in our model by four scales: first, challenge, this refers to the extent to which individuals see problems as opportunities for self-development rather than threats. Second, commitment, which concerns deep involvement with whatever one

is doing. Third, confidence (in abilities and interpersonal), reflecting a high sense of self belief and an unshakeable faith in having the ability to achieve success while not being intimidated and fourth, control (emotional and life), which reflects a tendency to feel and act as if one is influential.


This component of mental toughness addresses how we, as individuals, respond to challenge. A challenge represents any activity (or event) which we see as out of the ordinary and which involves doing something that is stretching. It, like the other components, can be viewed as a mindset. Some will see opportunity—others will see threat. It's the same situation but a different outcome. How we perceive challenge is key to how we cope and deal with challenge.

For students, exams and coursework perhaps represent the most obvious challenge. We are in a competitive world and children can become obsessed with the need for success. Unfortunately some children are less able to deal with exam stress than others. They tend to see an assessment as a way of making them look bad rather than seeing it as an opportunity to show how good they are.

The most dominant factor relating to the challenge dimension is change. Change is inevitable, especially in education. For the children

Some descriptors and behaviours which may associated with extreme positions on the challenge scale.

Lower scores

Higher scores

Don't like sudden changes Don't like shocks

Fear of failure Avoid effort

Intimidated by challenges

Tend to achieve minimum standards Respond poorly to competitive


Dislike being in new situations Prefer routine

Avoid risk (particularly, of failure) May get things out of perspective

Like challenge

Easily bored—will seek change Provoke change

Like problem solving Work hard

Volunteer for projects

Enjoy competition and show it May not always be content with

daily life and routines “Addicted” to adrenalin

they are constantly experiencing transitions, perhaps the most stressful type of events we have to deal with. For the educator the rules and regulations change at a bewildering pace, often necessitating huge alterations in a very short period of time.


Achievement motivation

There are a number of psychological theories and models that relate to the challenge dimension. Arguably the most well-known is achievement motivation. Murray (1938) developed his model in the 1930s and argued that we all have a set of significant motivators and, to some extent at least, these are learnt from our environment. This offers a powerful idea to those of us interested in mental toughness. If achievement motivation is learnt, can mental toughness also be developed in this way? Those high on achievement motivation will actively seek domains that will allow them to express this. They will be drawn to challenging situations to show they can succeed.

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