The Power of Grit and Resilience

In this episode of The Everything Life Coaching podcast, learn how to cultivate grit, and why perseverance is more important than intelligence in meeting goals.

The Everything Life Coaching Podcast, featuring Lumia Coaching founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux, is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. Subscribe to get new episodes weekly!

The Power of Grit and Resilience

In this episode, Lumia co-founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux discuss the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, visualizing what it is that you want, pushing past major setbacks and the power of hope.

Episode Transcript

John: Hey guys! Welcome to Episode 2 of our Catalyst Life Coaching Podcast. Today we’re going to talk about grit and fearlessness — two very big topics. And we’re going to attack them through the door of positive psychology.

Noelle: Yeah. Absolutely. This is John Kim (The Angry Therapist) and I’m Noelle Cordeaux (Head of the Catalyst Life Coaching Intensive over at SHFT). And positive psychology is really the foundation for a lot of what we do. It’s a new science. It’s been around for the past 10 years in terms of a body of data being built and collected on it. But really, all of the concepts are completely ancient and have been around since the dawn of civilization. It’s pretty straight forward and common sense stuff that I think we just don’t take the time in our everyday lives to consider and work towards.

John: Yeah. So which one do you want to start with first — want to start with grit or fearlessness?

Noelle: I think that they really go hand in hand. The definition of grit is passion and perseverance in the pursuit of long term goals. And really what grit is — is dealing with that feeling of discomfort and fear, and saying that, “No matter how physically or emotionally uncomfortable I feel right now, I’m going to continue pursuing the goal in front of me.” And I think that’s why they tie in. Because on the other side of emotional and physical discomfort is fear, right.

John: Yeah. When we do come across turbulence or grit, many of us — because of the discomfort — we go the other way.

Noelle: Yeah. So when I was doing a deep dive for this podcast today, the thing that struck me the most — and just really knocked the wind out of me — is that grit and perseverance is more important than intelligence in achieving goals.

John: Wow. That’s really powerful.

Noelle: Right?

John: Well just because in this world, we put so much weight on grades, degrees, intelligence and all that. But you’re saying that grit — having this kind of mindset of pushing through — is more powerful, which I agree 100%.

Noelle: 100%. You can get an A on every single paper and get as many degrees as you want, and unless you actually go out there in the world and do something with that, they’re completely worthless.

John: Yeah. Absolutely. And you can’t outsmart life. Grit is just hard work.

Noelle: And I really like this concept that discomfort is both physical and emotional. Because when I think of all of the people in our communities, when I think of our coaches, when I think of the things that the clients — who come to our coaches — want to overcome. It usually falls into one of the two areas, of either physical or emotional discomfort. I’m sure you’ve seen this a lot through CrossFit — with pushing through physical discomfort to reach a goal.

John: Yeah. Absolutely. And you have to have the right mindset for it. Because if you see the discomfort as torture or as something that is hurting you, you’re going to protect yourself. And so, most people run the other way because the fight or flight kicks in or because of fear. Fear happens because you feel like you’re going to get hurt. So whether it’s emotional or physical — when you have that fear, that’s when the walls go up and that’s what prevents you from pushing through, going through the grit. And by going through the grit is where you grow.

Noelle: Absolutely. I just went back to my CrossFit gym on Monday. This is my first full week back at it.

John: Oh awesome. Is your fear coming up for you?

Noelle: A little bit. I think it’s fear that my body won’t have the muscle memory — like during box jumps, really gets me. So what advice do you have for me? Going on this journey knowing that — I’m saying, “Okay, I want to get my body into peak physical form to prepare for aging, to prepare for all the work that we have to do with this company. What do you have for me?”

John: Wow. I’m going to life coach you huh.

Noelle: Yeah.

John: Well, number one, I think you have to remind yourself that you’ve done this before. I think so many people — when they do something that they’ve done and then time passes and when they revisit it — they forget that they actually have accomplished things that their body is capable, because of the fear and doubt. So I think that’s the first one. And I would say — I know this sounds kind of silly but — you gotta turn your dial to “fun”. Whether you’re doing pushups or gymnastic movements or kettlebells or whatever, if you go into it like it’s a playground, you’re going to be a lot more fearless than if you go into it like, “Okay, I don’t know if I can do this, people are watching, this is too heavy, etc.”

Noelle: That’s awesome. [That’s awesome advice?] I came across two tenants of mindset. And the first tenant is a fixed mindset where the concept is “I tried it and it just didn’t work” and it ends there. Finite. And then the other mindset is a growth mindset that involves both resilience and curiosity where the internal dialogue is “I tried it and it didn’t work, yet.” And I thought that [tapping?] the “yet” on the end of that was so altering because it really puts zero limitations on where you can go in life. If you see the road in front of you as just eternally open — because the journey is what gets you there, not the task.

John: Absolutely. And I gotta say, the fixed and growth mindset — it’s huge. It was created by Carol Dweck. She’s a Harvard researcher — she started to research what make people successful, and what she came up with was this — that people with a fixed mindset are a lot less successful than people with the growth mindset.

Noelle: Absolutely. I think that visualization plays into this so much — the power of priming, the power of being able to think about what your future state will be like when you accomplish your goals. It is one of the most powerful tools out there for [attaching?] to grit because it’s so easy to get stuck in the mindset of “This hurts. This sucks. I can’t do it. I won’t do it.”

John: Yeah. Can you expand a little bit about priming? Because that’s something that, in coaching, is used a lot. And I think a lot of people listening to this podcast can learn from that — this idea of priming.

Noelle: So priming comes from the world of sports psychology. And it’s a technique that was really first established with [top athletes?]. It was a way of — some people would tattoo or write or carry with them the time that they wanted to hit, the goal that they wanted to hit. And we know from long term studies that when a human being keeps the thing that they want in life, or the thing that they want to accomplish, or the thing that they want to do or become in front of them — literally/physically in front of them visually, in their mind’s eye, or in some sort of visual representation — there’s something like 80% more likely to accomplish that goal. It is an incredible phenomenon and it’s an incredibly powerful tool. It’s kind of caught on public consciousness with the concept of vision boarding. And the concept of vision boarding is when you sit down and take the time to cultivate and collect pictures, words, images that represent your future self, your future state. And your vision board needs to be kept in a place where you see it every day and it needs to kept in a place that is free from criticism. And those are the two pieces that are really important.

John: So can they be things? When I think of vision board, I think of people that cut out pictures of houses they want to live in or cars they want to have. Or is it more of a — something that [invokes some kind of feeling?].

Noelle: It can be [inaudible phrase] — whatever is inherently important to you. On my vision board, I have a picture of a woman with huge muscles, have a picture of a garden full of vegetables, and I have a picture of where I live in Philadelphia — which is actually a goal that came to pass. For a really long time, I had a picture of this beautiful river, and I know live three blocks away from it. It’s crazy. I’ve been always amazed at how many things from my vision board — especially place and location — have really come to pass. I had L.A. on my vision board for a long time and we all know how that one ended.

John: So where do you keep your vision boards? Is it on a wall? Or is it folded up in your pocket? Or where is it?

Noelle: It’s on the wall of my office. So that when I sit down to work, that’s really kind of the first thing that I see. And it’s a really good reminder for me, especially the vegetables and the muscles, because I can get so buried in work and just not pick my head up — but then that keeps me from reaching my physical goals or reaching my health goals.

John: I just had an image. I would love to hire an artist to put my vision board and paint it as mural on an entire wall in my house. That would be amazing — so you could see it every day.

Noelle: Incredible. Make sure you leave a lot of white space for your future.

John: Well [inaudible] what you do is you just — every year, you redo it.

Noelle: That would be super cool. I love the idea of having a whole magnetic wall in your house where you can constantly change [inaudible] vision board.

John: My vision board has a korean barbecue in the backyard of my house which is in the Los Angeles Hills. I have a collection of motorcycles. I see this title of New York Times Best Seller. The vision board that I have is very specific and it’s something I’ve been carrying for a long time. And we’ll see what [matches?] on it. I want to go back real quick because the fixed and growth mindset is such a great tool when it comes to grit. So I want to remind you guys real quick — people on a fix mindset believe you are or aren’t good at something based on your inherent nature, just because it’s who you are, so that’s what makes you fixed. People with the growth mindset believe that anyone can be good at anything because of your abilities are entirely due to your actions. This sounds simple but it’s surprisingly deep. And the fixed mindset is the most common and most harmful. So it’s worth understanding concerning how it affects you. A lot of people in this world — they have a very fixed mindset and it prevents them from going through the grit. Fixed mindset is like the petri dish of fear. The fixed mindset believes that trouble is devastating — so you stay away from “trouble”. Sometimes trouble is what is going to be the soil for your growth.

Noelle: I think that’s one of the biggest benefits of coaching, of hiring a coach and working with a coach — is to disavow yourself of the notion that “trouble” or discomfort or even failure or setbacks are bad thing. They’re actually not — they’re data. They’re data for you to gain a clarity on what works and what doesn’t work, and to put together a new game plan to get back up and keep trying again and again and again.

John: Going back to you starting CrossFit, I want to give you one more piece of advice and this is something that I used early on and it just reminded me when you’re talking about now — is to see your body as an experience. And to wonder and get very curious about how far you could push yourself or hitting what I call the “white zone” and stretching that zone. So when you go so hard that you don’t think you can go anymore. And you know, the truth is, your mind stops you at like 40%, your body can go a lot further. It’s our brains that stop us. But stretching that and experimenting — there’s so much power in being curious. And when you think that your body or maybe your life is an experiment, there’s a disconnect where you’re no longer holding on to fear, but you’re seeing it more as something outside of self.

Noelle: Absolutely. And to be open to [adaption?] and change. That I think is been one of the greatest lessons of the last year for me. When you set out on a long term goal, when you set out on a long term path, the outcome may come in an unexpected form. Or the path that you take may not be the path you intended it to be but you still will arrive at the same place. There were two things that I came across that I think were really significant when I was doing this research. And one of them was that successful people, however you define success, face an average of seven to eight major setbacks before they finally hit the sweet spot.

John: Wow. And you know, most people — if they don’t find success in attempt number one, they’re done. Right?

Noelle: Yeah. Absolutely. And the other piece that I found is that — an antidote to fear is hope. Because when you’re wrapped with fear, that’s your nervous system, right? That’s our ancient, evolutionary, fight or flight mechanism that says, “I need to be careful of this.” And then hope is other piece of us that gives us our humanity, our compassion, our belief that life is good and we should be enjoying it. And one of the best ways to maintain hope is to surround yourself with people who believe in you and with people who support you.

John: Yeah. It goes back to kind of our whole thing of rebuilding up yourself through others.

Noelle: Rebuilding yourself through others, having cheerleaders being vulnerable. Just because you had a s*** day, doesn’t mean that the world is over — it just means that you had a hard day.

John: I think hope is so powerful and I think hope is one of the things that, as life coaches, we try to find for our clients. And I think that’s what can change everything. How do you inject your client with hope?

Noelle: [inaudible] a really good question. Well, I think that from a coaching perspective, that’s one of the most beautiful things about forming a partnership with someone. When someone comes to me as a client, I look at that human as filled with limitless potential. And I look at that human in front of me as 100% capable of not only transforming, but of reaching a new threshold of existence where there’s contentment, joy, and achievement. And my knowledge — my science evidence-based knowledge — that that is f****** possible, is what I transfer over to build hope. Hope is in accountability. And you wouldn’t think that those two are likely companions, but they are. Because hope is the why of “No, get back up again.”

John: Also, just having someone that believes in you. And I think [inaudible] of coaching is the relationship and that alone kind of organically creates hope.

Noelle: 100%. I’ve been seeing this kind of meme or statement fly around a lot recently but it’s “fear is a liar”. And I think for a lot of times, it’s true. So back to me and CrossFit — I’m terrified of box jumps, terrified of them. And really, what we’re talking about is me and a wooden box. And so my fear around this scenario is just not worth engaging it.

John: Well how are you going to overcome that fear? Or are you going to?

Noelle: I don’t know. I’ll let you know when I get there. I mean, I think the trick is just to jump, right?

John: You know, the other thing I was going to say about fear is — I think sometimes fear is a shadow cast by our own hand. And I think the power in that shift, in being less afraid, is actually [inaudible] in a different experience. Setting yourself up for a different experience. So for example, “I’m afraid of the water. I’m afraid of sharks.” — like most people. Two years ago, I went to Hawaii and I decided to go into a shark cage. My girlfriend at that time, she bought this for me as a Christmas gift. And of course I was resistant, I didn’t want to go. This is the grit — [inaudible] you actually have to go into the cold water way out in the sea, and I didn’t want to do it. But when I did it, I went into the cage, went down and there was like four or five sharks. And you know, they’re big — they weren’t great whites, but they’re big sharks. And you instantly panic and you instantly have the fear. But then when you sit with it, there’s a tipping point where you realize, “Wait a minute, this actually isn’t that scary.” And suddenly, the shark’s faces look like puppy dogs and they were just running around. And the guy was saying that they’re actually more scared of you than you are to them. And when I came home, because I had that experience, I was instantly less afraid.

Noelle: That’s awesome. Albert Ellis calls that emotional interval training — where you put yourself out there for brief periods of time directly into your discomfort zone and then you pull back. And that’s a large part of what you do in coaching, with designing experiments with your client. It’s getting them to push out into their discomfort zone and then pull back — to prove to themselves that nothing happened, nobody died, the world’s not [inaudible] the sky isn’t falling, and that they have efficacy around a particular topic. That’s really cool.

John: You know, I always believe and I think also... Speaking of life coaches, I think Tony Robbins is a big believer in the power of experience. You know, experience is what’s convincing. And whether we’re talking about relationships or experiencing — I was just talking about swimming with sharks — but any kind of experience where it changes your mindset and the beliefs that you have about yourself. For example, a personal story, my book came out and having this false belief of being the almost guy, minimizing everything and all that kind of stuff. But so far, my experience with this book has been super positive. And it’s starting to [reframe?] and give me new beliefs about myself as a writer. And so without that experience, it would be hard just to imagine that belief. But when you actually have the experience, then that [inaudible] convincing.

Noelle: And it goes on and on. I mean, for me, I’m living it right now. For, I guess, our listeners who don’t know the story of John and I too well, we’ve been working together for about five years and we ended up building a company together for coaches, by coaches — it’s called SHFT. And I quit a very nice lovely stable job and a PhD to come do this work. And I am living daily — physical and emotional discomfort of swinging without a safety net, putting myself out there, being responsible to so many other people, doing work that is impossibly hard. But you know what, I wouldn’t press the reset button for the world. Having meaning, having purpose, doing hard things is what our bodies and brains are meant to do. And if you’re just sitting there being scared of life the whole time, you’re missing the whole damn point.

John: Yeah 100%. And I gotta say, the other trick [inaudible] guys whether you’re a coach or someone who is being coached or wants to be coached. Another trick to this — and I talk about this all the time — is to swim so far, they can’t turn back. So with me and my journey with The Angry Therapist and everything I’m doing with you. And the Catalyst Course and everything we’re doing. I don’t have a choice. This is it. I can’t stop everything and suddenly go sell cars. That’s not an option. Because I’ve connected all of this to my purpose in who I am and how I want to die. If you bring that to a micro level even when you take that into something like CrossFit box, all the fear happens right before the workout — before the 3,2,1,0 go. And then once the workout happens and you’re in it, you have to convince yourself that you gotta bring your [boats?]. You’re going to fight — you’re going to live or die on this island. And so when you do that, then you’re able to lean forward and really push through instead of thinking you’re going to quit — all the negative stuff that goes into your head that makes you want to stop.

Noelle: Oh yeah. And I think that’s a great metaphor for everything — to push off from the safe shores and just kind of say, “Alright. This is what it feels like to be alive.” And I think that so many people miss that opportunity because our whole society is based on being scared of things — that we won’t have enough shiny toys or we won’t have enough admiration or we won’t have enough safety net. And the reality is that life is hard and unstable. And that you’re going to experience hardships and ups and downs anyway. It’s inevitable. And you might as well do something that you enjoy and something that you love and take risks and build a meaningful life. I think the thing that is the true stabilizers connection to others and solid relationships. Because if [inaudible] those, you can weather the emotional and physical discomfort pretty well.

John: Noelle, thank you for the amazing dialogue. This is always so much fun talking with you. And also, this isn’t just for other people but it’s also for ourselves. Whether it’s a reminder or you and I sharpening each other through our journey. So I really appreciate every conversation we have.

Noelle: Absolutely. We [can? can’t] do this without each other.

John: Yeah. Exactly. And listen, guys if you’re listening, just want to remind you, this is only Episode 2 and we are creating this podcast to create a dialogue to help other people. Whether you’re coaches or you want to be coached or if you just want to have a better life, make sure you subscribe to this podcast. And we will constantly or continually bring questions and challenges and concepts and techniques, and talk about everything that will help you live a better life.

Noelle: Absolutely. Thanks John. I hope you have a great [rest to your?] day.

John: You too. Be well guys.

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