The Art of Grit, Resilience, and Bouncing Back Stronger
“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
These motivational words not only look good on a wall, but they also hint at something much bigger. The idea that you can work your way through — or out of — any situation is a key mentality that pays dividends when life’s toughest moments hit.
What Is Resilience Training?
Resilience is how you deal with stress, whether that’s in a positive, neutral, or negative way. With resilience training, you’re training yourself to handle stressful situations at a higher level and with more ease.
Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, calls this characteristic grit. In her book, Grit, she says, “where talent counts once, effort counts twice.”
Duckworth’s breakthrough happened by studying children and adults in difficult environments. Those most likely to succeed were not necessarily the smartest; rather, it was those who possessed more grit that made them more likely to blaze a path of long-term success.
How to Overcome Setbacks
Duckworth explains grit as the perfect blend of passion and persistence, mixed with a relentless ambition to pursue goals, even if it takes months, years, or decades — while disregarding concern for rewards or recognition.
This “I’ll show you” mentality is invaluable when you consider that setbacks are an inevitable part of life.
According to Duckworth, there are five ways you can build your grit, or train your resilience:
- Pursue your interests. Find something that fascinates you.
- Practice, practice, practice. Get a little bit better every day.
- Connect to a higher purpose.
- Cultivate hope.
- Surround yourself with gritty people.
Tips From the Pros
To help you with #5, we spoke with some of the grittiest people in the world. Here are their stories (in their words) of how they deal with setbacks and what they have done to overcome obstacles.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Do The Reps
My heart surgery last year is what most people would consider a setback. I expected an easy outpatient procedure but woke up to find out they had split my chest open and performed open-heart surgery. Anyone who has had open-heart surgery can tell you it isn’t an easy comeback.
But, Terminator was starting to film three months later. So I was lucky: I had my vision. I had to be ready to do stunts.
After heart surgery, you start out in the hospital with lung exercises and short walks. I counted those reps and marked them off. The walks got longer. Then, the doctors said I could go to the gym if I didn’t lift heavy, so I just did very light weights to get my body used to the motions again.
I was 100% ready to fight when I got to set. And, I was back to training and doing whatever it took to get in those workouts. The key was having the vision and counting every rep that took me to get to the vision.
LeBron James: Turn Frustration Into Opportunity
Setbacks to me are opportunities to grow. An opportunity came in 2014 in the NBA Finals when I wasn’t able to do everything I wanted to due to muscle cramping. After that, Mike [LeBron’s trainer] and I set out to find a solution so we could do our best to avoid that situation down the road.
It wasn’t just about not cramping; it was about becoming better. We examined everything, from my training to my nutrition and supplementation. No stone left unturned.
Now here we are, five years later with our own company, Ladder, to offer a piece of that solution and the same products I use to support everyone.
Adam Bornstein: Turn Failures Into Competitive Advantages
The funny thing about success is you only see the end result, never the struggle. I remember when one of my books became a New York Times bestseller and people wanted to know, “What was your secret?” or “What was your big break?”
My break was starting over at 26, going back to school after getting rejected by 27 different journalism jobs (no joke), applying for internships to work my way up, making no money, having 5 books proposals rejected, writing two books that I was never paid for, starting an online coaching business from nothing, and then writing another book that finally hit it big. And you know what? I wouldn’t change the journey for anything.
Every obstacle, every setback, every bruise, is not really a roadblock — it’s a springboard forward if you’re able to learn from it and use those obstacles as a competitive advantage for the next opportunity.
If you know what doesn’t work, that means you’re one step closer to what does. And when you consider that most people quit when they fail, when you keep going, the competition starts to lessen through perseverance.
I don’t believe in right or wrong decisions; the only wrong decision is indecision. Act, live, grow, and move forward.
Kelsey Heenan: Eliminate the “All or Nothing” Mindset
I almost died of anorexia in 2009. Through treatment, therapy, accountability, practice, and lots of grace, I made a full recovery. Now, my rituals are about creating a truly healthy and balanced life.
If you have a goal, you need to have a plan in place. You also need consistent habits that are aligned with your plan to reach those goals.
Another key factor is that most people need to get rid of the “all or nothing” mindset. Most people fall off-track because they expect perfect execution of the plan, but that’s not realistic.
When you’re trying to get to the next level, there’s no doubt you need to work hard. However, when life happens and there’s a bump in the road, your mindset needs to be in a place that allows you to know how to get back into the groove of the plan when you get off track.
This is how you create consistency, and consistency with your plan will help you not only reach your goals but surpass them.
Seniesa Estrada: See Your Success Before It Happens
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The biggest setback in my life has been at the beginning of my pro career because I struggled so much to break down barriers for women’s boxing. I continued to believe in myself through visualization of my goals and prayer, and I was able to overcome all of the struggles.