COMPOSURE: The Fourth Trait Of Mental Toughness

"The man who masters himself is free."  -Epictetus

When the going gets tough do you get going? They say, when the going gets tough the tough get going. Are you tough? Your composure is your ability to remain calm and in control when the going gets tough. Your composure in difficult situations many times is what will be what matters in whether you win or lose. Composure can be defined as your ability to stay in control of yourself in a manner that allows you to continue to perform at optimum levels, regardless of the situation.


As we grow and learn through our experiences we learn how to respond in certain situations. It works like this. Your brain and mind are two separate things. The body obeys the brain and the brain obeys the mind. As a result, there are certain emotions and reactions your brain automatically produces in response to certain situations. Knowing how all this works and what responses will occur during certain situations gives you an advantage. This advantage enables you to deal with expected responses by overriding your brain’s response allowing you to control your actions.

Composure enables you to have clarity of your thoughts and the ability to maintain your focus during difficult situations. It promotes sound decision making when it counts most. Your brain will tell you that you are too cold, too hot, too tired, too weak, too wet, too old or you just don’t have what it takes.

Individuals who listen to these messages coming from their brain are the ones who lose their composure, their focus, eventually give up and in the end quit. However, those who can maintain their composure are just the opposite; they maintain their focus, they continue with the task at hand and do their very best to succeed. By remaining composed, they can dig deep within themselves to find the strength they need to finish.

Over the years, there have been many times my brain has told me I just couldn't go on but my mind told me to continue, don't stop. At some point, we all experience situations in which our brain tells us we just can’t go on. In those situations, we must ensure our mind remains in control providing us with the composure that allows us to continue until we have overcome whatever the challenge is.

When we can train our mind in a way that allows us to remain composed, regardless of the situation, we ensure our ability to maintain our self-control. To a large degree, our ability to succeed depends on a mind that is conditioned to deal with difficult or tough situations in a composed, self-controlled, manner. The important thing to remember is that if you can stay composed, you can better recognize situations that trigger your brain’s response mechanisms and psychological responses that directly impact your ability to perform. When you know this, you are better prepared to deal with challenging situations.

There are many examples of how composure has defined past leaders, great athletes and scholars. Lincoln is a good example. During his most trying hours he remained patient, poised and maintained his self-control which history shows made all the difference.

If you fail to maintain your composure, you are not only likely to injure others, but it’s certain you will injure yourself. The easiest way to remain composed in difficult situations is to remember the three keys to composure:

Control your Thoughts

Control your Temper

Control your Tongue

When you control these, you win without regret.

Composure is the fourth key in developing your mental toughness. In next week's blog, I'll be discussing resilience the fifth and final trait you need to develop your mental toughness.

You can listen to the audio version of this post at Jeff Heiser Radio Podcast 98.