Mental Strength Trumps Talent, Intelligence & Physical Strength

It stands to reason that success is dependent on a person’s talent, intelligence or physical strength. And, to some extent, that logic holds true. However, research suggests that an even better indicator for success – in all aspects of life – is mental strength.

“Grit” at West Point

Angela Duckworth, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, tracked 2,441 cadets in West Point’s initiation program, dubbed “Beast Barracks.” She looked at SAT scores, Leadership Potential Scores, Physical Aptitude and Grit Scale and found that cadets with the highest “grit” – the perseverance and passion to achieve long-term goals – were 60 percent more likely to finish the program than their peers.

Duckworth, along with Christopher Peterson, University of Michigan; and Michael Matthews and Dennis Kelly, US Military Academy, West Point, uncovered numerous examples that prove out this theory, including world-class athletes; successful business leaders; and popular artist and writers.

And although it takes a great deal of intelligence and talent to be a successful entrepreneur, on Huffington Post, Mart Zwilling outlines the 10 mental toughness fundamentals for entrepreneurs and assesses: “It takes more than market knowledge and technical skill alone. That’s the fun part of the challenge to most serious entrepreneurs. If it was easy, anyone could do it.”

What do Mentally Strong People Avoid?

Amy Morin, licensed clinical social worker and writer, provided Forbes writer Cheryl Connor with 13 things mentally strong people avoid, including: wasting time feeling sorry for themselves and worrying about things they cannot change; fear of change and taking calculated risk; and dwelling on the past or making the same mistake over and over.

For some, these are hard habits to break, but according to James Clear in The Science of Developing Mental Toughness in Your Health, Your Work and Your Life, strength isn’t about motivation or willpower: “Mental toughness isn’t about getting an incredible dose of inspiration or courage. It’s about building the daily habits that allow you to stick to a schedule and overcome challenges and distractions over and over and over again.”

What Habits Promote Mental Toughness?

Morin agrees that courage is key and offers five exercises to build mental strength:

  1. Evaluate your core beliefs and make changes to beliefs and behaviors that are inaccurate or unproductive.
  2. Save your mental energy for productive tasks, such as solving problems or setting goals.
  3. Think productive thoughts. This sounds trite, but exaggerating the negative internally has negative impact externally.
  4. It’s OK to be uncomfortable. “Mental strength is about accepting your feelings without being controlled by them.”
  5. Understand that it’s a work-in-progress and monitor yourself daily.

In a fast-paced, diverse company like Jabil, mental toughness is a must. According to Chief Operating Officer Bill Muir: “Manufacturing is by its nature incredibly challenging; the making of hardware is by definition ‘hard.’  There’s incredible complexity and so many permutations of customer demand changes, supply chain iterations and things that can go wrong in a technically difficult manufacturing environment. It takes exceptional perseverance to consistently overcome these challenges.”

In fact, if you visit Bill’s office you’ll see the following Vince Lombardi quote posted:

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will.”

What is your “Grit” Level?

Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews and Kelly included their Common Factor Analysis of Grit Scale in their Perseverance and Passion study. We’ve listed their factors below – both positive and negative – for a fun exercise in understanding your “grit.”

Perseverance of Effort

  1. I have achieved a goal that took years of work
  2. I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge
  3. I finish whatever I begin
  4. Setbacks don’t discourage me
  5. I am a hard worker
  6. I am diligent

Inconsistency of Interests

  1. I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one
  2. New ideas and new projects sometimes distract me from previous ones
  3. I become interested in new pursuits every few months
  4. My interests change from year to year
  5. I have been obsessed with a certain idea or project for a short time but later lost interest
  6. I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete

Perhaps the moral of this post is best summarized by Pulitzer Prize winner, Mary Schmich, building on quotes from Jane Addams, Eleanor Roosevelt and Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Watch Jabil Joules for more on Mental Strength and Agility in the coming weeks.

We want to hear from you:
How do you see mental toughness impacting your success at Jabil?
How have you tried to increase your mental strength?

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