You can’t have business growth without personal growth. That’s because both come from finding unity between you, your life and your business.
This article is the first of a series of seven. Here’s the model that this series of posts builds on:
To grow yourself, you need to understand your character better, how mentally tough (resilient) you are, and how you learn.
My preference for understanding your character better is to understand character strengths. I use the VIA Classification of Character Strengths and Virtues created by Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman, which is a classification of positive traits in human beings. I’ve written about one of these strengths previously: kindness. There are 23 other strengths, falling under six virtue categories: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence. Universally and morally valued, character strengths synopsize our abilities for helping others as well as ourselves. They produce positive effects. Understanding your character strengths and further developing them is a foundation for living an authentic life.
Understanding Mental Toughness
Based on the work of Peter Clough and Doug Strycharczyk, mental toughness is about how we respond to challenge, stressors and pressure. More specifically, it’s the product of four factors in our psychological make-up:
- Challenge – seeing challenge as an opportunity.
- Confidence – having high levels of self-belief.
- Commitment – being able to stick to tasks.
- Control – believing that you control your destiny.
Mental toughness is a scientifically-robust concept. It has practical applications in sport, business and broader life. Most important, it can be developed. Not everyone can be mentally tough. It is essential that we also have people who are mentally sensitive too (they are not mentally weak), to have a balanced society. It is not about male machismo; men and women are equally tough. Finally, mentally tough individuals are not necessarily uncaring and individualistic; many of them work or play in cohesive teams or group settings. As Strycharczyk and Clough note: ‘If you’re tough, secure in your own [sic] skin, there is little need to prove your superiority by ‘proving’ the inferiority of others.’
Improving how you learn is crucial for three main reasons:
- Education institutions typically do not teach us how to learn.
- Humans vary hugely in their ability to learn.
- Institutions and their leaders are not very good at learning from their experiences and the experiences of others, and failure to learn is learning to fail.
There are two aspects to understanding how to learn more effectively: your preferred learning preferences; and your preferred learning style.
There’s an ongoing debate amongst different branches of science about the value and validity of learning preferences and learning styles. Based on over 30 years of professional practice, I find tremendous value in understanding both when I’m mentoring leaders and teams. Until someone can convince me otherwise, I’ll carry on using them.
Following the work of Neil Fleming, learning preferences refers to the dominance of or balance between different modes of learning that you have adopted:
- Visual – drawing and using symbols
- Auditory – speaking and listening
- Reading and writing
- Kinesthetic – physical activities
The work of the distinguished scholar David Kolb identifies learning styles from your positioning in a cycle of learning. The cycle moves from experience to reflective observation to abstract conceptualisation to active experimentation and back to experience. Based on your balance between these activities, you will fall predominantly (but not exclusively) into one of nine learning styles. In turn, these styles suggest that you have specific abilities; they’re your comfort zone for learning.
Foundations for Personal Growth
In understanding your character strengths, we have a basis for positive personal growth. In assessing your mental toughness, we can predict how you will react to stressors, pressure and challenge. In analysing your learning preferences and style, we can better tailor professional learning to meet your development leads.
Together these three pillars provide a firm foundation for personal growth.