Imagine, for a second, your idea of a US Marine Corps or [insert highly trained army equivalent here]. You’re probably thinking of someone who resembles a young Arnie, all muscles and jawlines that could cut through steel. And for good reason, when operating in the absurdly challenging environment of the armed forces, it does help to be something of a physical specimen. But, it turns out, the real distinguishing factors of success are psychological rather than physical.
Published in a Journal of Medical Internet Research mHealth and uHealth, a recent study monitored the physical and psychological activity of three consecutive classes of Marines and sailors enrolled in an extreme training course. Of the 121 attendees, a little over half completed the course. Those who performed well in the hikes and aquatic training, or who displayed strong results in things like heart rate or sleep status, was little indicator in who would be successful. Instead, it was the participants who identified as extrovert, and therefore able to conjure a confident, joyful attitude throughout the training, that succeeded.
After performing a number of baseline personality assessments on the participants, including personality type, emotional processing, outlook on life and mindfulness, the study tracked their progress through a mobile app. Subsequently, researchers were able to pinpoint various psychological stressors that triggered dropping out. Things like dips in confidence often precipitated a drop out, enabling the researchers to predict who and when would call it a day.
“These findings are novel because they identify traits not typically associated with military performance,” explained lead researcher Leslie Saxon MD, “showing that psychological factors mattered more than physical performance outcomes.”
Interesting, to say the least. And a reminder, the next time you’re tempted to call it quits, whether in the gym or in life, it really is all in your head.