"Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again." - Nelson Mandela
Why is it important to live life like a marathon, not a sprint?
The reason, according to American psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth, is that taking a longer-term view can help us to better navigate the inevitable ups and downs of life.
Think back to the start of this year.
Did you have grand plans, a vision for your new improved life, but somehow your daily life got in the way of reaching those goals?
The key is whether you see yourself as failing or still waiting to succeed. The answer is crucial, according to Duckworth.
When she was in her late 20s, she left a demanding job as a management consultant for what she said was an even more demanding one — teaching maths to early high school students in New York's public system.
She realised that among her students, whether they were successful or not wasn't about intelligence.
"What struck me was that IQ was not the only difference between my best and my worst students," she said during a TEDx talk.
"Some of the best performers didn't have the highest IQ score, and some of smartest kids weren't doing so well."
When she looked at what determined who was successful, one characteristic emerged as a predictor of success: it was the student's level of resilience, or what she calls "grit".
And her findings were replicated across a number of environments from the West Point Military Academy to the National Spelling Bee.
Grit, as Duckworth defines it, is having passion and perseverance, sticking to long-term goals and having the emotional stamina to keep going, when others have given up.
Grit is living life like a marathon, not a sprint, she said.
Remarkably, her research in Chicago public schools showed kids who scored higher on tests that measured their level of grit or resilience were significantly more likely to graduate, even when all other factors were taken into account, such as how poor or wealthy kids' families were or how they fared in aptitude tests.
So if grit is the secret weapon for success, how do we get more of it and instil it in ourselves.
Well, Duckworth said, when it came to grit, very little was known about how to cultivate it.
"How do you build grit? The honest answer is we don't know," she said. Talent is not always the answer. Instead, Duckworth suggests focussing on Stanford professor Carol Dweck's concept of a "growth mindset".
According to Dweck, a growth mindset is the belief that intelligence can be developed, which leads to a desire to learn, a tendency to embrace challenges, to persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as the path to mastery and to find lessons and inspiration in the success of others.
But Dweck goes even further.
She said whether you gave up on your goals and plans as a failure or decided you just had not reached them yet could be a marker of how much resilience or grit you have and ultimately whether you are likely to succeed in the long term.
Interestingly, one of Dweck's studies showed students' maths scores improved when they learnt the neurons in the brain could form newer, stronger connections and over time, they could become smarter.
In other words, once the students with resilience and a growth mindset learnt about the brain's ability to grow and develop, that's exactly what they started to do.
It means believing you are capable of change and growth and seeing setbacks as only a temporary impediment to achieving your goals is crucial.
As part of the original FYI/ASK series of resource sheets (currently available in the eBook,) we looked at the topic of resilience and how steps can be taken to grow and nurture this most useful of abilities.
So, dust off those new year's resolutions and your grand plans for this year. Maybe it's not the case that you haven't reached those goals, you just haven't reached them yet.
Get in touch and tell me what has helped you bounce back and become resilient? What keeps you going and focused on your goals?