I remember the moment when it dawned on me. I was sitting in a module called human performance in the final year of my psychology degree. The dawning moment was a realisation that some of the psychological knowledge being absorbing, was putting words on areas I had a deep lived experience of. Terms such as internal locus of control, deliberate practice and grit were not only new terms to me but these were areas of psychology that had decades of deep research behind them. And I had decades of lived experience myself in some of these areas. It was a lightbulb moment for me – I knew had found my new home. A place where I would work and continue to work for the rest of my life. It was probably no surprise that the area I chose for my research thesis was Grit.
Grit and resilience are terms often used interchangeably but they are not the same. Grit is proactive – it involves consistent effort over time and the pursuit of something that one is passionate about, which of course will include dealing with setbacks along the way. Resilience is reactive – it’s our ability to bounce back after we have struggled, endured a setback or failed at something. We can of course pro-actively build our levels of resilience and so it doesn’t need to be reactive. We can also build our levels of grit in a very pro-active way. One building block highlighted by Angela Duckworth in her brilliant book called “grit” is purpose. Connecting with a genuine sense of purpose that is meaningful for you, is a great way to cultivate grit. I learned this through study but I lived it through experience.
After I finished my degree, while I was better equipped to help others build their resilience and foster better levels of grit, I still felt this was incomplete and that while resilience and grit are really important, they are not the full picture. Over time, this is what has led me to push beyond resilience with my own enquiry and brought me to the wider area of mental fitness & agility.
Our overall level of mental fitness & agility will touch every aspect of our lives both personally and professionally. It will impact the ease and inner peace we experience in both good and challenging times. It will also influence our ability to be present, to focus, to prioritise and to eliminate distractions. It will determine how we respond to change, uncertainty and setbacks. It will also play a key role in how we harness stress, navigate conflict and maintain self-belief when the stakes are high and we are under pressure. For me, this is a lifelong journey and one that will never be finished. Over the years I have realised that not only is mental fitness and agility a sport for life but it is also one that you can really enjoy along the way. It does requires effort and work and you can absolutely fall in love with the work. I know my levels of mental fitness and agility impact me as human being, as a Dad, as a husband, as a leader, as a son, as a brother and this straddles every aspect of my life and how I show up, engage and perform.
Between now and the end of the year, many people (potentially like you) in the business world will be under pressure to deliver corporate results and achieve certain objectives. You have a variety of tools at your disposal to achieve these objectives. Things like your experience, your professional training, your people skills, your team, your manager etc. You may also consider your levels of resilience as a key part of your toolkit. I would suggest that you move beyond resilience and build your personal practice to hone and evolve your mental fitness and agility.
For me, this is arguably your most valuable tool of all that will impact how effectively you use all the others in your toolkit. This will not only help in the pursuit of your professional goals but perhaps even more importantly will assist you in your personal life. Click here for a previous article I wrote on the 5 key pillars of mental fitness and agility. Perhaps by simply reflecting on each of these 5 pillars, you can gain a bit more clarity on a particular area of your own mental fitness and agility you would like to improve and consider the impact this might have on your life as a whole. Click here for another article on building your mental DNA (Daily Non-negotiable Activities) that looks at some practical considerations to help build mental fitness & agility.
Information and knowledge, such as that which I learned through my study of psychology or what you are reading here, in and of itself is not enough. The application of this through action, trial and error, figuring out what works best for you and so ultimately making meaningful and sustainable behaviour change is the real art. This is where the magic and power of you’re lived experience comes alive!