What if I told you that marathon running contributes to your business success? Would you immediately sign up to run a marathon?
A study of marathoning and its link to business success 1 uncovered that Standard and Poor’s 1500 companies led by marathoners were 5% more valuable than those led by non-marathoners.
Marathon running, like business leadership, requires mental toughness, the ability to handle high stress levels, and work through exhaustion. The result? Highly efficient, less stressed, and better performing CEOs.
Many CEOs have started running to maintain fitness and because of the sport’s flexibility (no special equipment or teammates needed, just the open road).
There’s no doubt that marathoning and business requires mental toughness. But not everyone likes running, and even if you do, you may never want to run a full marathon.
Fortunately, we can cultivate mental toughness (like resilience and perseverance) without actually needing to run a marathon.
Maria Konnikova, in an insightful article on resilience for the New Yorker, pens her conversation with George Bonanno, a clinical psychologist.
One of the central elements of resilience, Bonanno has found, is perception:
Do you conceptualize an event as traumatic, or as an opportunity to learn and grow?
‘Events are not traumatic until we experience them as traumatic.’
Konnikova goes further to explain explanatory styles from Martin Seligman, University of Pennsylvania psychologist and positive psychology pioneer:
1| Change explanatory styles from internal to external (“Bad events aren’t my fault”)
2| From global to specific (“This one narrow thing rather than a massive indication that something is wrong with my life”)
3| And from permanent to impermanent (“I can change the situation, rather than assuming it’s fixed”)
Resilience can be learned (and lost, unfortunately) over time so we have to be vigilant about checking our perceptions and explanatory styles, or lose resilience.
Psychologist Angela Duckworth has determined that grit predicts success, and in order to cultivate it:
You cannot will yourself to be interested in something you’re not interested in.
But you can actively discover and deepen your interest.
So once you’ve fostered an interest, then, and only then, can you do the kind of difficult, effortful, and sometimes frustrating practice that truly makes you better.
Another thing is really maintaining a sense of hope or resilience, even when there are setbacks.
– Angela Duckworth
How do you increase your mental toughness? Leave a comment below!
Executive Endurance, MarketWatch
How People Learn to Become Resilient, The New Yorker
Angela Duckworth on Passion, Grit and Success, New York Times
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth, Amazon
- Does CEO Fitness Matter? ↩