Grit matters. How do we grow it?
Grit—it’s a buzz word. Who doesn’t want to have it? But what exactly is it and how do we get it? We read Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, and summarized our take-aways for you.
What is grit and why does it matter?
Grit is “passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals.” It is important because it’s a key driver of achievement and success—and it is far more important than talent and IQ!
Studies have shown that deep down, most of us believe talent is the main reason for success. Does that mean that there isn’t a need for us “normal people” to aspire to be great? Not if you asked Nietzsche: “For if we think of genius as something magical, we are not obliged to compare ourselves and find ourselves lacking…” In fact, when it comes to how we fare in the marathon of life, it’s effort that trumps everything else.
How can you grow your grit?
1. Clarify your goals
The grittiest people are crystal-clear about their ultimate goal, and most of their smaller goals align with that goal. Duckworth suggests Warren Buffet’s three-step process to unify your goals:
- Write down a list of 25 career goals. (Yes, you might have that many!)
- Circle the five highest priority goals. (Soul-searching needed for this step.)
- Look at the remaining 20 goals. Which are in support of your highest five goals? All the other goals: Avoid them at all costs. They distract you.
2. Discover your interests
Interest is the source of passion. In fact, people are more satisfied with their jobs when they do something that fits their personal interest. But often it takes time to discover your interests. (That oncologist who said she wanted to cure cancer when she was in third grade is an exception!) Take time for your own discovery: What do you like to think about? What do you really care about? What matters most to you?
3. Practice deliberately
People who are gritty simply spend more time on tasks. A LOT MORE TIME on tasks. Also, they practice deliberately, which means their practice is characterized by:
- A clearly defined stretch goal
- Full concentration and effort
- Immediate and informative feedback
- Repetition with reflection and refinement
4. Know your purpose.
You know the spark inside of you when you’re passionate about something? That is the beginning of purpose. Whatever your passion is, ask yourself how it connects to other people, how it connects to the bigger picture, and how it is an expression of your deepest values. How will it contribute to the well-being of others? Gritty people keep going because they know their purpose.
5. Practice optimistic self-talk
Henry Ford wrote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” A lot of what you attempt depends on your mindset. Practicing a growth mindset is important so you keep going when things are tough.
In addition, pay attention to your self-talk: People say 300 to 1000 words to themselves per minute. Olympic athletes agree that those words need to be positive!
6. Join a gritty culture
The culture we live in and identify with powerfully shapes just about every aspect of our being. If you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture and join it. The hard way is to do it by yourself. For example, I swim on the Ann Arbor Master’s Swim team which requires getting up at 5 AM and swimming 3,000-4,000 yards per practice. Would I do it alone? Never! But when there are 40 others showing up before dawn, it seems like the most normal thing to do!
Final tips for parents
Are you a parent? Try the Duckworth’s family Hard Thing Rule: Everyone—including the parents—has to do a hard thing that requires daily practice. What’s best for kids is a structured non-curricular activity: An adult is in charge (ideally they are supportive and demanding), and the pursuits are designed to cultivate interest, practice, purpose, and hope.