When I talk about Finding More Inner Strength or resilience with my clients, I get them to recall a difficult situation they have faced in the past and how they overcame it. This almost always results in quite a few tears, as the memory of that time is played back. Quite often at the time, we are just surviving, and whilst we usually come out the other side, we did not equip ourselves to deal with it. I’m not saying life’s challenges are not going to affect us, a close bereavement for instance is going to have a profound effect on us, but we can be better prepared.

This is what we call inner strength; others might call resilience or grit. The definition of strength is the capacity to withstand great pressure and inner means mental, which frames the point nicely – do you have a strong brain? For me it’s a bit more, it’s our ability to solve problems and achieve results from within, and learn and grow.

In his famous Rice Stadium Moon Speech in 1962, John F Kennedy talked about overcoming the impossible task of putting a man on the moon, he said;

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade, not because it is easy, but because it is hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

He went on to say, “We shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to Earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out–then we must be bold.”

I’ve been using this speech as inspiration now for most of my career and it never tires. This is as much about purpose as it is inner strength, and the two are so closely linked. It is that sense of purpose that gives us all the grittiness and resolve to overcome the challenges we face.

So why is inner strength or resilience so important?

According to Suzanne Kobasa in her studies on Hardiness, challenge is a key in resilience and wellbeing. Dr. Paul T. Bartone, who studies Kobasa’s work, goes on to say; “The hardy style includes a strong sense of Commitment, Control, and Challenge. Commitment is the tendency to see the world as interesting and meaningful. Control is the belief in one’s own ability to control or influence events. Challenge involves seeing change and new experiences as exciting opportunities to learn and develop. The hardy style person is also courageous in dealing with new experiences as well as disappointments, and tends to be highly competent. The high hardy person is not impervious to stress, but is strongly resilient in responding to a range of stressful conditions. Recent studies have shown that persons high in hardiness not only remain healthy, but also perform better under stress.”

It’s also fair to say we need big thinking to overcome some of the major issues we face both in our own lives and on a global scale. Without it we are more likely to just give up or take the route with least resistance.

“Courage is not the absence of fear – it’s the realization that there is something more important than fear. Likewise – Success is not the absence of failure. Its the realization that succeeding is more important than failing.”  – Franklin Roosevelt

I use the following equation for Inner Strength or resilience

Inner Strength = Courage X Purpose X Perseverance

If any one of the above is Zero, the sum becomes Zero.

So how do we Find More Inner Strength?

There are things I am not going to cover in this article, which will give you more inner strength or resilience. I will explore these another time. It goes without saying that having more purpose, eating right, exercising, getting more sleep and being mindful will almost certainly give us more inner strength.

In this article, I will explore some of the aspects I talk about to clients;

  1. Measure your Inner Strength

 As Peter Drucker said, what gets measured, gets done. By measuring your Inner Strength, you can then take steps to make improvements. There are a few different scales around, but the one I like the most is Angela Lee Duckworth’s Grit Scale;

She talks about this in her Ted Talk on the subject. She says;

 “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. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

“What I do know is that talent doesn’t make you gritty. Our data shows very clearly that there are many talented individuals who simply do not follow through on their commitments. In fact, in our data, grit is usually unrelated or even inversely related to measures of talent.”

Her research is well founded and statistically robust.

You can complete your own grit score via Duckworth’s research site at Penn University.

So now you know how gritty you are, what are you going to do about it?

Duckworth goes on to say, cultivating a Growth Mindset as opposed a Fixed Mindset is the most compelling way she has seen to develop grit. Carol Dweck talks about her pioneering research in her Ted Talk and her book Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential. She demonstrates that those with a growth mindset perform better than those that don’t. Again, it’s very well researched. Remember our brains are malleable, the old term “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is being proved wrong. Neuroscientists have discovered Neuroplasticity – we can train our mind to change – we can cultivate a growth mindset.

Steps 2 – 6 look at how to cultivate a Growth Mindset based on Dweck’s research.

  1. Develop your Skills

Individuals without a fixed mindset believe, intelligence, skill and ability are something you are born with, you’ve got it or you haven’t. Growth mindsetters believe in developing skills. Research shows to be truly great at something we need to do it for around 10 years and keep working at it.  Think about David Beckham, Mohammed Ali and Michael Jordon, all famously brilliant at their sports, and all famous for working really hard at their game. Ali studied everything about his opponents’ game. Beckham and Jordon were both famous for training long after everyone else went home.

Think about how you can further develop your skills in a tough situation you’re in right now.

  1. Overcome Challenges

People with the Growth Mindset see challenges as an opportunity to embrace and grow from. Fixed Mindsetters avoid them and give up easily. They don’t want to get found out as a failure so don’t try.

Think about that situation again, what have you already given up on? What could you persist with more?

  1. Apply Effort

Growth Mindsetters see effort as a rite of passage and essential to success. Fixed Mindsetters feel it’s unnecessary – if you’re good enough, it will happen.

Think about the effort you are applying to the situation, could you apply more?

  1. Listen to Feedback

Growth Mindsetters see feedback as useful and something to learn from and essential, they actively seek it out. Fixed Mindsetters get defensive and take it personally. I’ve learnt to be more accepting of feedback and not to take it personally, this is hard to do, but once you embrace it, it’s really empowering.

Think about any feedback you have had on your situation and how you handled it. What could you do different because of it?

  1. Use Setbacks

Growth Mindsetters embrace setbacks; they treat them as a wakeup call to work harder next time. Fixed Mindsetters blame others. John McEnroe was a famous fixed mindsetter, always blaming, in spectacular fashion, others for his setbacks.

Think about how you usually respond to setbacks. Think about setbacks in your situation; what you can use from them to try harder next time?

If you apply and practice these simple steps, you could find more inner strength or resilience.

Ian Hacon, Founder, Yellow Brick Road

Ian is a leadership coach, trainer and public speaker who specialises in unlocking the individual leader through a journey of self-discovery and improvement so they can in turn build great organisations.