ACCREDITED represents an acronym presenting ten key traits that help build both killer instinct and mental toughness; these traits are both different and essential. In this piece, I’ll present an outline of the ten traits and suggestions for delving further into the ACCREDITED journey by taking our complimentary, seventy-day ACCREDITED video course found in the Insider’s Club of our website.

Two opening thoughts on Killer Instinct and Mental Toughness:

1. Killer instinct is defined as an aggressive, tenacious urge to dominate in order to reach a goal or overcome a struggle. In essence, killer instinct is “drive” on steroids. Whereas drive indicates an urge, killer instinct raises the stakes and puts you on the attack with an aggressive, unrelenting approach to your most important goals in business and in life.

2. Mental toughness is defined as a measure of confidence and resilience predictive of success in education, athletics, or the workplace. Mental toughness gives you the persistence, and mental and physical energy to fight for your goals until you get them. Think of it this way, where killer instinct gets you started; mental toughness helps you finish.

It’s common to see people with killer instinct who lack mental toughness. They get excited about a new challenge or goal — be it in business, a workout program, a diet, and the like – but when the struggles start or disappointments arise, they don’t have the mental toughness to power through to success. On the other hand, some people lack strong killer instinct and essentially require a near-kick-in-the-rear to get them out of the gates, but once they get onto something they stick with it until completion because they’ve built the confidence and resilience to fight to the finish.

Intentionally working on the following ACCREDITED traits will consistently and incrementally build both killer instinct and mental toughness to entirely new levels. But it’s the “intentional” part that stops most people short of their potential. Intentional means “on purpose,” and in today’s age of instant gratification, fewer and fewer are willing to follow purposeful processes long enough to make a significant impact on their growth.

Recall the definition of killer instinct, “an aggressive urge to dominate in order to reach a goal or overcome a struggle.” For the right perspective in understanding the importance of being intentional when it comes to building your killer instinct and mental toughness, let me define the context for what I’ve found is the most effective interpretation of that definition: your primary goal is to dominate your former self, not someone else. This is what you can control, and this is what’s most relevant. What are the odds of consistently dominating others if you haven’t yet mastered yourself? Thus, the crux of developing killer instinct and mental toughness is to be better today in these ten areas than you were yesterday, and to repeat again tomorrow, the next day, and until the day your time on this earth expires.


1. Attitude. Without the right outlook on life in general – or concerning struggles, successes, and defeats — killer instinct remains dormant and mental toughness is underdeveloped.

2. Competitiveness. Competitiveness is a desire to dominate in the quest to obtain a goal others are also vying for. They key to competitiveness is to first and foremost seek to dominate your former self. It can’t be considered as progress or growth if you “beat” others but are stagnant or in decline.

3. Character. Character is about the development of a moral and ethical code that protects your talent and builds your success on a sustainable foundation. Strong and weak character alike are developed over time, one decision at a time.

4. Rigor. This trait embodies having a well-structured, highly effective daily routine that prioritizes what matters most, and minimizes time with — or ignores altogether — the people, activities, and thoughts that make it more difficult to reach your goals.

5. Effort. Effort is about bringing game changing work ethic to whatever you do; doing more than is required, and more than what makes you comfortable; doing all you possibly can regardless of whether you feel like it or not.

6. Discipline. Discipline is only possible when you limit your options; when you narrow your focus to the essential activities you must execute with excellence daily in order to reach your goals. To develop discipline there are certain conversations, excuses, habits, activities, and more, that you no longer give yourself the option to engage in.

7. Intelligence. This key trait involves an ability to acquire and apply skills and knowledge. Most people do far better with the acquiring aspect than the application; but, killer instinct is leveraged, and mental toughness is built or weakened, depending upon your success in consistently executing what you learn, and doing what you know you’re supposed to do.

8. Tenacity. This trait is a persistence fueled by ferociousness. Not only do you persist, you do so without losing enthusiasm, passion, and with renewed determination when things don’t go your way.

9. Energy. Energy involves the mental and physical stamina to sustain the key activities necessary to reach your goals. Many people start well (killer instinct) but fizzle out and never finish because they lack energy (a key aspect of mental toughness).

10. Drive. Drive is an innate, biologically determined urge to attain a goal or satisfy a need. Drive is where killer instinct starts. While drive involves an urge — a strong feeling — killer instinct demonstrates an aggressive and tenacious urge. You not only want something, but you want it bad enough to stop waiting for it or procrastinating, and take whatever action is necessary to bring it about.

Final Thoughts: If you want to raise your leadership level by more intentionally working on these traits, then take the ACCREDITED Course found in the Insider’s Club.

Enjoy the journey and get ACCREDITED!

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Dave Anderson
Dave Anderson, “Mr. Accountability,” is a leading international speaker on personal and corporate performance improvement. The author of 14 books and host of the wildly popular podcast, The Game Changer Life, Dave’s message has impacted leaders in nearly 70 nations. His “in-the-trenches” background of starting and running world-class businesses, coupled with his relatable non-academic approach, creates an unmatched connection that resonates with audiences and moves them to action. Follow Dave on Twitter @DaveAnderson100