Fortitude. What is it?
It’s mental toughness.
To be a leader, fortitude is necessary.
To be resilient, fortitude is necessary.
You can be empathetic and brave at the same time.
Fortitude doesn’t override the need for attitude and aptitude.
If you have aptitude and attitude, but you lack fortitude will you succeed? Maybe, but fortitude is an important part of the recipe for success.
It’s the courage and bravery to persevere even amidst failure or adversity. With fortitude comes the ability to bounce back from adversity. It’s all about resilience.
For example, think about someone you know who is highly motivated. Even when everything is crumbling around them, they are motivated, they are focused, and they are standing strong. That is a person with fortitude. That is a resilient person who keeps their eye on the prize and finds a way to come out the other end stronger than before. They want to achieve their goals and they will find a way to do that.
4 Hallmarks Of Fortitude
Mental toughness is a trait that we would all like. Just like many other strings on the bow of resilience, fortitude is something you can develop with practice. You can build physical strength, you can cultivate optimism, and you can improve your fortitude. Let’s talk about how!
In order to build fortitude, courage is necessary. You have to face your fears and deal with the challenges life throws at you, even in the most
uncomfortable or difficult situations. This is when your attitude will play a major role. If you believe you can overcome a situation, then you can.
When you do overcome it, you must reflect on how you felt dealing with it and the high you felt after conquering it. Courage means accepting failure when it comes but learning from the failure you experienced. Often, time shifts how we think to focus more on how it felt to overcome – that’s fortitude.
Determination and focus are necessary for fortitude. When you set a goal, you create a plan, and you have a vision of the value it supports and what it will take to get there. You set out knowing that every decision you make from here on out should support your effort to achieve that goal. If you make a decision that flies in the face of the value it supports, then you’re steering yourself down the wrong path. Your determination is key. Your eye should remain on the prize, with all of your energy, focus, and determination on that end game.
Find Emotional Awareness
When you spend time with your emotions, you start to become more aware of them and how certain situations, people, and circumstances make you feel. When you notice how uncomfortable you feel in the face of the behaviors of others, you also notice how you feel strong around certain people and their behavior.
It’s important that you identify the people and the situations that make you feel positive, as well as negative.
Awareness and control over your emotions are also key. While you may find a way to avoid certain people and situations, it’s not always possible. Therefore, it is vital you have control when put in a situation you know you struggle with.
It’s important to remain in control and focused on those emotions, it’s key to fortitude. It’s important to note that this does not mean you should be unapproachable or devoid of emotion when faced with difficult situations. Emotions are important and people need to see that you have them. The point is that your emotions are in check.
When you go on a diet or embark on a fitness journey, you have a nutritionist, personal trainer, or friend who helps you maintain accountability. This is someone who will help you maintain motivation and force you to reflect on your actions and how they influenced your progress.
The same is necessary for building fortitude. It requires hard work and accountability. It requires patience because it isn’t something that will happen overnight. Like many things worth having in life, it requires time and patience. It’s a learning process. You can’t beat yourself up about slip-ups, but you have to learn from your mistakes. That’s where an accountability partner comes in handy.
One of the greatest side effects of building fortitude is how it cultivates resilience. When you are faced with adversity, the ability to bounce back is key. To remain focused on your goals and be productive during that time is the next level. You’re not perfect, you don’t have to be, you just need to maintain a positive attitude and be willing to learn and bounce back when necessary.
Have you ever taken a moment to question what makes someone a success? Whether they are a great leader, a successful athlete, or a fantastic parent. What makes them capable of such great things, when so many other talented people fail?
Generally, we think well, obviously, they are a better strategist or a faster runneror the most patient person. Answers like this seem obvious. It must be the case, right? The reality is that there is far more to the story than that. I think deep down you know that. Talent is important. Intelligence is important. However, they aren’t as important as you think. It’s the fortitude that matters.
Think about it. Jeremiah might be a fantastic athlete, but if he doesn’t have the mental toughness necessary to bounce back from an injury, it doesn’t matter how talented he is. He isn’t going to make it. Mariah might be the smartest person on the planet, but if she doesn’t have the mental toughness to bounce back from a hiccup in her code, then she isn’t going to make it.
West Point is an excellent example of fortitude in action. It isn’t easy to gain entry into West Point, they only accept the best of the best. Yet, getting there isn’t guaranteed success. Around 1,300 students are admitted each year and they spend their first summer embarking on brutal tests.
Known as Beast Barracks, these tests were designed to deliberately test the mental, physical, and emotional capacity of each cadet. Yet, it isn’t the biggest, strongest, smartest people who manage to come out the other end on top. It’s the ones with the highest levels of fortitude who persevere. Grit mattered the most.
Researchers found that those who scored highest on the Grit Scale were more likely to finish Beast Barracks (60% more likely) (*). It wasn’t intelligence, it wasn’t talent, it certainly wasn’t genetic that predicted their outcome. It was mental toughness.
Researcher Dr. Angela Duckworth, of the University of Pennsylvania, found fascinating results in her studies on grit.
• Undergrad students at ivy league universities may have had lower scores on the SATs, but they had more grit and higher GPAs.
• When two people of the same age are compared, it is their levels of grit that predicts their success versus intelligence.
• When looking at the National Spelling Bee competitors, it wasn’t their IQ that predicted the outcomes, rather their grit. The latter means they were more focused and committed to practicing to improve the outcome.
While Duckworth focused her grit studies on education, the need for it doesn’t stop when school does. It matters in every career field and in your personal life. The reality is you probably know some great examples of this yourself. Think about the superstar athlete in school.
They had so much promise, but where are they now? Compare that to the person who worked so hard for absolutely everything. Where did they end up? Successful, probably.
The people who are focused on accomplishing their goals no matter how long they take… that’s grit. Talent isn’t everything, but fortitude will take you as far as you allow it.
What Mental Toughness Looks Like
What does fortitude look like in action?
- Athletes with fortitude are consistent, they don’t miss a training session, they’re more likely to stay longer and train harder outside of official workouts.
- Leaders with fortitude are consistent, they have a goal and they take daily action to move themselves closer to those goals. They don’t allow short- term distractions to disrupt them, they don’t allow a hectic schedule or negative feedback to derail them. They build up those around them just like they do to themselves.
- People with fortitude are consistent, they deliver on their word, they work to a schedule, not just when they feel like it. They tackle everything they do like a professional, they focus on the priorities and rarely shirk responsibility.
Let’s look at three strategies that will help you develop fortitude.
Strategies To Build Fortitude
Define The Meaning
For the cadets we discussed earlier, the showing of their fortitude was finishing Beast Barracks. What does it mean for you? It could be…
- Daily workouts for the next month.
- A full week without packaged foods.
- Delivering your work before the deadline for a full week.
- Regular meditation daily for the next month.
- Completing an extra rep on every workout you do for the next week.
- Reaching out to a different friend daily.
- Dedicating an hour of your week to pursuing a creative activity.
It might seem as though fortitude is an abstract trait, but it’s tied to concrete actions in the real world. You just have to be clear on what you are pursuing. You can’t just think about building fortitude and suddenly be mentally tougher. You can prove your fortitude in real life.
We think about fortitude, mental toughness, and grit as our response to the most extreme situations. It matters all the time. It’s about the small wins in everyday circumstances just as it is about those big wins at the biggest moments. It’s a muscle that needs to be exercised daily. If you want to rely on it in the big moments, you have to use it for small wins, too.
Habits Over Motivation
Willpower and motivation – they’re fickle, they will come and go. Fortitude is forever. It isn’t about a dose of motivation; it’s about building habits that help you overcome constantly. Your habits matter.
You can develop a system that will help you focus on the most important things no matter what obstacles fall in your path.
Your habits are the foundation of your beliefs and this is what will set you apart from everyone else.
To build new habits focus on small behaviors, create a routine, stick to your schedule, and if you slip-up just get yourself back on track.
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