Unintimidatable. Now there’s a $50 word. It has popped up numerous times as I have reflected on the nuances of mental toughness.
Intimidatable means being reduced to a state where the spirit is broken or courage is lost.
Thus unintimidatable implies strength of mind in the face of forces that would disrupt, distract, and deter. It defines an unwillingness to give in to a sense of inferiority or back down. It is the relentless ability to maintain vision, faith, and optimism. It results in the achievement of goals and the accomplishment of dreams.
Mental toughness can’t be bottled, bought, or borrowed. You only come by it the hard way – you develop it. Psychologist Angela Duckworth conducted fascinating research about what she calls the “Grit Scale.” Grit has little to do with IQ, genetics, personality or talent – yet it is a strong predictor of success
Duckworth studied thousands of people; ranging from West Point cadets to undergraduate students at elite universities to children who qualified as finalists in the Scripps National Spelling Competition. She calls grit the power of passion and perseverance. Another researcher, Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, states, “Attitude is more important than IQ in determining success.”
It is fascinating how often modern scientists often announce breakthrough research that is technological validation of timeless Truth. When it comes to grit, look at the lives of Moses, Abraham, Joseph, David, Paul, and ultimately Jesus. The Hall of Faith is filled with those who displayed all the characteristics of mental toughness. The formula for mental toughness is basic:
No discomfort = no growth.
No pushing = no toughness.
One day, while sweating it out at the gym, I noticed someone’s t-shirt that said, “It doesn’t ever get easier, you just get stronger.” That’s true of every aspect of life and brings us to the importance of developing your physical stamina. Success not Sabotage Coach, Becky Harmon, has always taught clients to pair physical training with spiritual and mental development for remarkable results. I’ve known Becky for years, and for a long time I, resisted her continuous challenges to train for a race. As I struggled in the process of writing my book, Becky threw down the gauntlet and said, “if you’re serious about obtaining this victory, it’s time to run.” I was finally ready to listen and began training for a half-marathon.
I am certain it is not coincidental that I finished my book the month after I completed the race. Was it tough? Absolutely. Did I love the process? Absolutely not. Was it worth it? Unequivocally – yes!!
The battlefield of the mind is where grit is refined. Grit is a fundamental quality of leaders and is developed through a disciplined thought life. Mental toughness is the ability to remain consistent and produce at the peak of your ability despite feelings of inadequacy and lack. It means you finish what you start.
Five Indicators of Mental Toughness:
- You have an ability to absorb unexpected emotional peaks and valleys and are still able to have peace and humor in the midst of it.
- You maintain integrity under pressure and sustain a powerful fighting spirit against seemingly impossible odds.
- You have an ability to take a punch emotionally and bounce back quickly from disappointments, rejection and missed opportunities.
- You understand the power of words in influencing your own behavior and take negative thoughts captive. (See 2 Corinthians 10:5)
- You have the discipline to choose what you want most over what you want now.
Just as pearls are formed inside the shell of certain mollusks as a defense mechanism against a potentially threatening irritant, grit is developed in response to adversity. The result is unique and valuable.
Pearl has become a metaphor for something rare, fine, admirable and precious. Mental toughness is a pearl in the strand of leadership qualities necessary for success. The next time you encounter resistance, remember: No Grit, No Pearls. Be unintimidatable.