How to Build Your Gumption Muscle

A note from Megan M: Michelle is a fellow Austin Linchpin, and when she said the word “gumption”, I was hooked. Some concepts just don’t get enough air time! ;}

When writing a recent post of mine & searching for just the right word to use, I came across the word “gumption”.

Gumption is defined as:

1. “initiative, resourcefulness” &
2. “courage, spunk”.

That’s such an interesting intersection of concepts, because having both sets of qualities instead of just one makes you infinitely more likely to succeed in pretty much any area of life. Having a big ol’ gumption muscle can help further your projects.

So how do you build that muscle?

Make yourself uncomfortable. Not in the bad way – the “this is against my ethics way” – but in the “this is out of my comfort zone” way. One area where a lot of people are uncomfortable is self promotion, which is unfortunate because without some self promotion, nobody’s likely to know about you, your project, or anything else you’re doing at the moment.

Here’s one way to get better at self-promotion: have someone close to you (preferably someone who’s good with words) describe who you are and what you do in absolutely glowing terms. Remember what they said. Write it down. Keep it handy. And the next time someone else asks you about yourself, say some version of that instead of shuffling your feet and going “Oh, um, well, I’m kind of a… and I do a little bit of…”

A few other suggestions to help kick you out of your comfort zone:

  • Learn to be a better communicator.
  • Talk to more people.
  • Take a class in something you’re not very good at.
  • Attend local meet ups or networking events.
  • Volunteer to help someone else (even if you aren’t sure you’ll succeed).

Engaging in activities like these will show you that nothing bad is likely to happen when you get out of your comfort zone, and that in fact, great things often do. If you’re willing to face your fear of unlikely consequences, you’ll be much more inclined to take initiative and try new things.

Act the way you want to feel. Simple but true. If you want more confidence or spunk, think of people that you associate with those qualities, and then think about how they act. Make a list of common factors. For instance, confident people tend to make a lot of eye contact and stand up straighter. Much like smiling to make yourself feel happier, if you start acting confidently, you’ll feel more confident.

Get better at spotting, growing, and using resources. One reason so many people get stuck with problem solving is that they aren’t very good at spotting resources. They go into the problem assuming that a certain set of resources is going to solve the problem, and that anything outside of those resources won’t help. Without access to those resources, the problem seems unsolvable.

Instead, when you’re trying to solve a problem, look around you and see what you have. Enlist a brainstorming partner if possible, to make sure you don’t miss anything. For example, if I was trying to solve a problem right now, I might get a piece of paper and write down:

“My cell phone couldĀ help me by…”

“My printer could help me by…”

“My books could help me by…”

…and so on. Come up with a way each thing could help you, even if it’s totally ridiculous and off the wall – eventually, you’ll come across a suggestion that isn’t ludicrous. Doing this exercise regularly helps you get better at spotting resources and thinking of ways to use them.

Equally as important: Make sure you’re actively growing and maintaining your resources. If you don’t put effort towards the care and feeding of your resources, you’re that much less likely to have access to something you need when you need it. Do a lot of research? Make sure your library card is up to date. Rely on a certain online network or website for job referrals? Make sure that you regularly update your information there. Listen to music to keep your mood positive? Make it a priority to seek out the music that moves you and keep your iPod up to date. You get the idea.

Make use of these suggestions on a regular basis and you’re guaranteed more gumption. And with enough gumption, you can take over the world!