The final word in our 7-part series on Serious Resiliency
This blog series has been about developing emotional resiliency—the internal firepower that instantly pops you back up to your feet no matter how many times you get knocked down. We have explored emotional awareness, how to detect and transmute negative emotional energy into a positive correlate, and discussed at length the four demons of anger, anxiety, arrogance and absence of self-respect. I would like to close out this series of articles by discussing the four positive attitudes of grit. Grit is like a metallurgical alloy combining emotional resiliency and emotional strength, the rarest of metals that U.S. Navy research identified as the defining quality between the .04% who are the last men standing in the graduation of a BUD/S class. If you have a burning desire live an uncommon life, the four attitudes of grit are mission critical. Burn these four traits into your character and you will find grace in the most trying of circumstances.
The Four Attitudes of Grit
Self-esteem. This is the first attitude of grit. Self-esteem is the emotional state of feeling worthy and respected by others, the polar opposite of the fourth demon mentioned in the last post. As discussed, low self-esteem can originate from early traumatic experiences like childhood abandonment and similar volatile environments where your voice is not heard. Or it can be an unfortunate case of outright abuse. In any case this needs to be tackled head on and replaced with a healthy sense of self that will provide a foundation for internal resiliency. With this foundation secured, the inevitable blows of life will simply roll off of you because you will find your internal sense of worth unaffected. The stoic within comes to the battle, turning adversity into opportunity and challenges into learning.
The second attitude of grit requires reorienting a narrowed attention of selfish concern toward the welfare of others. Victor Frankl describes this attitude in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, which chronicles his experiences in a Jewish concentration camp. Victor survived by finding meaning through tending to others’ needs over his own. Kokoro Camp, run by SEALFIT, is designed to take you out of your limited “me” comfort zone and force a “me + we” dynamic where you are mutually dependent upon one another for survival and success. Anyone who has been through the ordeal leaves with more nuanced emotional range and depth that did not exist prior to the event. The seriousness of the training and need to deeply connect with others at a heart (kokoro) level allows one to acknowledge emotional limitations and get over them quickly to succeed.
But this attitude also includes ascending beyond an ethnocentric orientation toward your tribe, team or native country. In other words, it requires that you evolve beyond an ego and / or ethnocentric orientation toward life. Honestly ask: Am I open to the opinions and views of others, even when they violently disagree with me? Most have trouble living in non-judgment of other beliefs, views and opinions. If we don’t need to prove we are right, or fight for our beliefs, then at least we judge the other person, tribe or nation as wrong, dumb or un-evolved. This dysfunction plays out on a team level, an organizational level and a national level.
Advancing your compassion, non-judgment and acceptance of other’s points of views leads to personal growth. Integrated cross-training of the body, mind and spirit will accelerate this growth. If you embrace this path, you will note over time your center of attention shifting from self and tribe, to a world-centric orientation. Though you may not agree with or adopt the viewpoints and behaviors of the “others,” you will acknowledge their right to hold differing beliefs and express idiosyncratic behaviors; you will also seek to understand their needs and interests. The resulting integrated view of the world leads to multi-dimensionality, where we can take the perspective of others, and have a new perspective of ourselves in these relationships. This leads to grit and grace when the inevitable frictions arise in communication and transaction.
The third attitude of grit is to develop and maintain a positive mind-set. This requires a constant framing of an optimistic outlook on life bundled with a positive attitude toward a challenge and the others engaged with you in the challenge. It should be no surprise that a positive, optimistic attitude impacts one’s mental toughness and emotional resiliency. I have covered this topic in depth in the past so won’t get into details here. The positive mind-set is a skill that, along with many others, we develop in our yearlong Unbeatable Mind Academy (visit this link for a special offer).
Finally, grit is ensured when you have an attitude of self-control informed by a deep certainty of your “why.” When climber Aron Ralston found himself alone in the desert, literally stuck between a rock and a hard place, he used the dull blade of a pocket knife to cut his own arm off to save his life. He did it because his “why” was vigorously clear and potent: to survive so he could know and be there for his unborn daughter. To be emotionally resilient and a survivor, it is crucial to have the answer to the question, “What is your why?” and to know deep down what are you willing to sacrifice to ensure it comes to pass.
Gain Self-Control for Grit
The depth and span of your emotional intelligence determines whether you stay in the fight and finish what you start or become a quitter. We all churn with emotions, both positive and negative. This blog series started with a discussion about developing awareness of the full complexion (the depth) and range (the span) of our emotional lives. The unbending question remains: Do you have a healthy response to negative emotions and a healthy expression of positive ones?
We have seen how negative emotional responses can derail you from your commitments, limit your peak performance and cause you to suffer. Bottom line: Either you manage your emotions, or they will manage you!
Grit demands emotional control. This emotional control necessitates emotional development, an intelligence comprised of the capacity to perceive emotions, integrate states of feeling and make sense of the information those feelings convey. The capacity to manage individual emotional states, and synchronize them with others in a social context, is mature emotional development. This development will affect our character and moral maturity, which can be viewed as how you “show up” each moment with your decisions. Emotions impact the thousands of small decisions made every day, leading us incrementally closer to success or failure.
Stored negative emotional energy can foster fear-based, weak responses. A lack of awareness of those emotions means we cannot control them, nor direct them in a positive manner. Thus we end up controlled by the emotions and respond with fear, anger, timidity, jealousy, rage, scarcity and other negative junk.
A valuable way to develop emotional control is to get more “real” with a practice of authentic listening. When we listen, how often do we actually listen to our own internal thinking and emotional reactions rather than to the other person? We do not try to connect and understand, but instead judge, react and nod. Authentic listening is the practice of listening with total presence. The very act of authentic listening will dramatically improve our communication and develop self-control. This level of awareness necessitates that the mind is not running off on some fantasy or internal dialogue, or worse, judging the speaker. It trains our emotions to be in control because we are present when an emotion is triggered, less likely to react to a habituated pattern.
I hope you have found this series on emotional resiliency helpful. It is an extraordinarily important skill to develop; a hidden secret to success. Gaining traction in this one of the five mountains will open up new levels of development in the other four.
Train hard, stay safe and get some grit!
-CDR Mark Divine