Are we all capable of strengthening our character? Angela Duckworth’s exciting new book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, says “Yes!” If anyone can learn to approach life in this way, how do we get started?
Her preliminary research highlights the importance of having a clear, inspiring purpose that keeps us moving through our inevitable difficulties. She also notices that successful people create positive virtuous cycles of thoughts, words, actions, and outcomes that provide us with the confidence that we do have the power to improve our lot in life.
These are big ideas. At LionHeart, we have been exploring these very ideas in our own quest for success and happiness, without compromising one for the other. For us, grit is an important component of heart. Simply stated, it is having the wisdom to know what will make us “happily successful,” and the courage to pursue that way of working or leading until we are consistently living up to that aspiration.
It sounds simple enough, but recently, a very smart executive asked us if the mind was synonymous to our ego, as an opposing force to our hearts. Our honest answer was “We don’t know, but….” The “but” is this: it seems that our minds are neutral. Our minds have a powerful capacity to help us realize our intentions. If our intentions are virtuous then our minds come through with amazing ingenuity. However, if our intentions are viciously negative, our minds follow suit with the same ability to manifest our worst possible human conditions. In other words, our minds can go in either direction, so we should keep them sitting in the back seat taking orders.
The real distinction is this: which part of us should be driving while our minds are in the back seat? In 30+ years of our own personal and professional field research, it is a choice between the heart and the ego. The heart is where our purpose, our values, and our positive character traits reside. It is the home of our innate goodness. Our egos, on the other hand, are vulnerable to the voice that feels “better than and less than others,” the notion that “winning at the expense of others” can be justified, and that “those with the right solutions” must prevail over others who just don’t understand what’s necessary (from their point of view of course).
“But isn’t there a healthy version of our egos?” you ask. Of course, there is. We call it confidence and high self-esteem. The problem, in our opinion, is that the healthy ego slips in and out of its unhealthy twin brother when we aren’t paying close enough attention. The ego is a slippery slope that eventually leads to an experience of pain and separation. We did not learn this in a text book. Our own struggles are why we have invested our careers learning and teaching the benefits of leading from our hearts. Our hearts are the deepest road to genuine success and true happiness.
We suggest you listen to your innermost, subtle thoughts when you take on your own character development. If you are trying to prove yourself, be wary. You have nothing to prove when you are connected to your heart. It’s one thing to aspire to greater positive impact, since our hearts have an infinite appetite to be helpful to others. That will be a very different experience than proving you are good enough, because if you’ve noticed, our egos never really get enough external validation.
To align your intentions with your heart’s highest aspirations, a daily practice will prove beneficial. Our 5 Minutes Per Day Leadership Mastery practice is designed for busy people who are deeply committed to lifelong learning. It builds upon both Duckworth’s work and the research of Geoff Colvin and his groundbreaking article Why Talent is Overrated. We unabashedly recommend these ideas and practices to you.
We will also tell you up front, even with the profound value we have personally received from these ideas and our 5 Minutes Per Day practice, it’s not always everyone’s cup of tea. There are times in our lives when we are just too dang busy or self-preoccupied to devote ourselves to mastering anything. Many of us, however, wake up again and again after going through difficult times, and remember that our hearts do long for peace and joy and fulfillment. So, what about you? If you are in a place calling for transformation right now, you will certainly find our practice very beneficial to having a very Happy New Year; and it can begin today as opposed to January 1st.
Please call us if you have questions!