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Getting gritty

I find the science of our minds truly fascinating. How is it we feel we can take on the world one day and want to totally give up on another?

Having the energy and the ability to deal with business and relational challenges is one of the keys to both success and wellbeing for leaders. You need to be able to dig deep when things get tough to remain effective.

Let’s call this ‘grit’. Leaders with grit are prepared to fail. Rather than beating themselves up when something doesn’t go to plan, or staying in their comfort zone, they have a mindset that allows them to embrace setbacks as part of a wider learning process.

You’ll be pleased to know we can all develop more grit. It’s not a genetic trait you either do or don’t have. And the more you try and bring it to bear in difficult situations, the stronger it becomes.

Here are some suggestions to help get more grit:

Embrace a growth mindset

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change itself and is the basis for all learning. It allows us to remember new information as well as take on new skills. The more we practice something new, the better we become at it as our brains form new neural pathways. If we want to develop more grit, we need to take on and practice new habits, such as finding more positive ways of reacting to challenges.

Learn how to re-frame the negative

There is a strong and immediate link between our thoughts and feelings. When the adrenaline is pumping during a high-octane situation, there are all kinds of knock-on effects and these can manifest in the ways we behave and respond. This inevitably affects our performance and the outcomes we achieve.

Here’s a simple guide to re-framing behaviour:

  • Relive a real situation where you felt under pressure
  • Tune into your feelings
  • Check for assumptions
  • Reframe each assumption in turn
  • Retune into your feelings
  • Visualise a positive outcome

Be ready for things to go wrong

Determined people do not expect things to be easy or successful first time around or every time. They expect obstacles and have strategies in place for dealing with them. Networking, peer group activities and support systems can all help build the resilience to deal with adversity. This will help you dust yourself off whenever something happens that requires you to find your grit.

Focus on strengths

We’re naturally more energised and successful when we focus on what we’re good at, rather than when we try to force ourselves to do things we don’t enjoy. Use the skills of team members. This boosts their motivation, helps their development and strengthens the overall team dynamic. It also gives you more time to focus on the areas where you can make a real difference.

Pay attention to serotonin levels

Serotonin supports our mood, memory and learning. It’s the chemical that makes us feel optimistic. It also improves our ability to solve problems. Eating foods high in tryptophan (bananas, dates, seeds, meat, poultry) and getting more sunlight are all good ways of increasing serotonin levels.

Build trust

Neuroscientists have long known that our bodies and minds are designed to do more of what makes us feel good. Check out Simon Synek’s talk on the benefits of building trust as a leader (http://youtu.be/ReRcHdeUG9Y). It turns out that building trust is actually good for us because it boosts oxytocin, which amplifies positive emotions, and reduces cortisol, the stress hormone. So put your trust in others: it’s a great way to achieve more and be happier about doing it.

So, in conclusion, getting gritty is not just about being able to bounce back. Putting some grit in your leadership style can bring better results.