Characteristics that are typically used in relation to being able to prevail in the face of challenges include Resilience, Grit and Mental Toughness. They are not all the same thing and not all people who do ok despite life’s difficulties have all of these characteristics. In this article, I explain the concepts and why they are important. In future articles I will talk about how to develop these characteristics. Here are some useful definitions:
Wikipedia: Psychological resilience is the ability to cope mentally or emotionally with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. Resilience exists when the person uses "mental processes and behaviors in promoting personal assets and protecting self from the potential negative effects of stressors". In simpler terms, psychological resilience exists in people who develop psychological and behavioral capabilities that allow them to remain calm during crises/chaos and to move on from the incident without long-term negative consequences.
Everydayhealth.com: Resilience is typically defined as the capacity to recover from difficult life events.
American Psychological Association: Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.
Positivepsychology.com: Resilience can be defined as the ability – and tendency – to “bounce back.” “Bouncing back” is what we do when we face disappointment, defeat, and failure, but instead of wallowing or letting things keep us down, we get back up and continue on with our lives.
The common thread in these definitions is that resilience is what enables us to ride out the struggle and recover from negative life events. It does not shield us from experiencing pain – we experience the pain of these life experiences as one might expect – but it gives us the strength to get through it and rise again without breaking down or falling apart. Resilient people are not afraid of the pain because they know they will be fine, no matter what happens.
We need resilience because life is just damn difficult – and we need to be able ride out the tough experiences and bounce back from setbacks and tragedy. In the next article, I will discuss the life choices and actions that build resilience and how to put these in place.
Wikipedia: In psychology, grit is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual's perseverance of effort combined with the passion for a particular long-term goal or end state (a powerful motivation to achieve an objective). This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie on the path to accomplishment and serves as a driving force in achievement realization.
South African College of Applied Psychology: Angela Lee Duckworth is quoted: “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality.”
Psychology Today: If you're gritty, you attain success through endurance, perseverance, resilience, passion, hard work, and practice, practice, practice. If you persist and face all the obstacles, you may just win. It involves finding your passion (which involves a sense of purpose) and persevering.
New Harbinger Publications: It is the ability to persist in something you feel passionate about and persevere when you face obstacles. This kind of passion is not about intense emotions or infatuation. It’s about having direction and commitment. When you have this kind of passion, you can stay committed to a task that may be difficult or boring.
As you can see, the essence of grit is a sense of purpose – big goals that you feel passionate about – and the perseverance to stick with it until the goal is achieved, no matter what obstacles you might face.
Without Grit, one cannot get the big goals achieved. It is about being driven towards something important and having the determination to see things through. I think that grit requires that one is actually resilient – but not all resilient people also have grit.
3. Mental Toughness
Mental Toughness is a concept that has emerged from the field of sports psychology, but I think it can be applied far more broadly. It is not the same as resilience. Here is my definition:
Mental toughness is the ability to sustain consistent focus and self-belief under difficult circumstances and despite external distractions and challenges. It has four components:
- Control: the sense that one has the ability to influence in a situation while keeping one’s emotions in check;
- Commitment: the choice to stay deeply involved in pursuing challenging goals despite the difficulties that may arise;
- Challenge: seeing potential threats as an opportunity for self-development and continuing to strive despite a constantly changing environment.
- Confidence: in one’s capabilities as well as in one’s ability to navigate complex interpersonal settings.
It is most easily demonstrated in the world of sport:
- The tennis player who makes no errors despite a hostile crowd and an opponent who is relentless. Rafael Nadal springs to mind;
- The rugby player who will practice kicking for posts for hours at a time, even without the presence of the coach, like Jonny Wilkinson;
- The golfer who is able to sustain focus over 2 or 3 days despite searing heat or howling wind. Ernie Els is a great example.
Once again, mental toughness is only possible in the presence of resilience – but being resilient does not necessarily make one mentally tough.
In the next few articles, I am going to explore each of these concepts and examine whether and how they can be developed or learned. So stay with me.
If you are in a chapter of your life where success requires that you are resilient, gritty or mentally tough, the support of a coach is very powerful. If this is you, why don’t you email me on email@example.com and let’s discuss your coaching programme.