Angela Duckworth’s book: “GRIT: The Power of Passion And Perseverance!” blasts some of the myths about grit. It also focuses at helping us integrate some basic principles to increase our grit factor! As the title says, grit is passion and perseverance focused for very long term goals. It is also having stamina, sticking with the future we want for ourselves day in and day out. Grit is living life like it is a marathon, not a sprint. The following equation also points to another definition of grit:
Talent x Effort = Skill
Skill x Effort = Achievement
Notice that the word effort is in both equations, which means that if we are to take our skills to the level of achievement, we must put in the effort. Which also translates as spending more time on task, e.g. being grittier!
Mrs. Duckworth’s research shows that contrary to what many of us had been led to believe, people with great talent, high IQ, and EQ, and even high SAT scores are not necessarily more gritty. In fact, her research shows that grit is either unrelated or inversely related to measures of talent. So, if these important personal and social markers do not help identify those of us who are grittier, or how to become grittier, what does?
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Here are five pointers to increase grit in your life.
1) A growth mindset: Most of us believe that we are born with a certain IQ, certain pre-dispositions, certain talents and skills, and that’s all there is to it. This leads most of us to box ourselves into a limited growth mindset. Gritty people don’t do that. If we believe that things should be easy, or relatively easy, why would we try harder, or keep on trying when the evidence shows that we are not accomplishing our goals as fast as we want, or as fast as others do? When we understand and accept that great accomplishments require lots of focused practice, we blast the myth that talents are the most important factors for those who accomplish great things. While innate talent can’t be denied, it is far from being THE factor that will lead us to great success. When we adopt the mindset that through our perseverance, not talent only, great accomplishments can be achieved, we increase our grit factor!
2) Do you have a learned helplessness mindset, or an agency mindset? It is not the pain some people experience which leads them to have what is commonly known as a helplessness mindset, but rather the belief that they can’t do anything about the pain they experience. Many research have demonstrated that when people believe they have agency (the belief that they have control and power over their life’s situations), they overcome their challenges in much greater proportion than those who have a learned helplessness mindset. This makes sense, right? On the contrary, if we have a helplessness mindset (it’s too late and I’m too old… whatever I do to improve my life situations won’t matter anyways… I don’t have any support and nobody really cares… I’m not smart enough, handsome or sexy enough, etc.…), and we don’t challenge our negative assumptions, our actions or non-actions will only prove these unconscious assumptions to be true. If we are to increase grit in our lives we must challenge our negative beliefs and learned helplessness mindset. So, next time you hear yourself affirming a negative belief about yourself or the world, challenge the thought and ask yourself, “do gritty people believe negative thoughts like these? Do they act on such thoughts?“ If learned helplessness has taken over your mindset, do what you must to challenge your thoughts so that you can create a more positive attitude. Let’s be clear, it is not easy to do at first. And yes, in time it becomes easier. Research shows that it becomes a second nature for those who focus on it. It does require, however, the willingness to face our negative beliefs, and often feel the painful emotions that are wrapped around them so that we can process them, and truly release them. It is how, in time, we free ourselves from these negative thoughts. Lastly on this guiding principle, when you succeed at something, when your agency proves to be effective at accomplishing your goal, take the time to integrate it, to feel it deep inside your body and to celebrate your success! As much as we must process the pain and negative experiences, which led to our negative mindset, we must also integrate our successes!
3) Is your inner dialogue optimistic or pessimistic? Like we have seen above, our inner dialogue dictates how we behave and what we intrinsically believe about ourselves and about the world. When we find ourselves adopting a pessimistic viewpoint, we can challenge our outlook and focus on the positive and/or on the resources needed to get the outcome we desire. As we keep on searching for solutions to resolve our challenges, as we keep on visualizing and being proactive to get the outcomes we want –no matter the odds we face– we increase our chances of finding them. At some point, we realize that in most instances it is a numbers game. As Henry Ford is known to have said: “Whether you believe you can or can’t, you are right!”
4) Pleasure or purpose principle? Are you married to the pleasure or to the purpose principle? What about having a relationship with both, without being identified with neither? Most of us would likely agree that if we are to have a pleasant and meaningful life, we need both in our lives. The conundrum is about being able to decide when to let the pleasure principle, or the purpose principal lead us into action, if we are to achieve a level of excellence in our lives. Mastery requires that we be willing to face the day in and day out commitments to work on our edges, our challenges and our limitations if we are to reach new levels of competency and self-actualization. How willing and capable are we to delay the dopamine rush, which comes from checking Facebook, browsing the net, or buying something we can’t yet afford without putting the expense on an already maxed-out credit card? Are we capable to remaining focused at working on something, which requires more brainpower and might be challenging, if not blatantly frustrating in the moment, in order to achieve a greater goal? If our pleasure principle prevents us to stay on task so that we can remain focused on getting to our next level of competency, it might serve us well to practice delaying, not denying, the urges for instantaneous pleasures when the rush to indulge hijacks our will to stay focus on the task at hand. “I’ll keep at what I’m doing for another 3 minutes, 27 minutes, or one hour and six minutes, before I watch TV or check twitter” might be a great workout to increase our ability to make conscious, and deliberate choices. This simple exercise will help us avoid being pulled and pushed by our instinct for immediate gratification. It will reinforce our “will” muscle. It is true that it will most likely not be as fun in the moment. However, when people with grit are asked if delaying immediate pleasures in the pursuit of greater goals is worth it, their responses are unanimous. Nothing beats the ultimate satisfaction of having mastered the ability to push through difficult challenges to achieve our goals!
5) Deliberate practice: To reach our next level of excellence and of expertise we must be willing to practice at the edge of the unknown and discomfort. As Malcolm Maxwell confirms, it takes 10,000 hours before attaining a level of mastery in a specific field. As we can all agree, it is a lot of hours. However, let’s be very clear that these hours must be used mindfully focused. 10,000 hours of banging on a piano without working the skills to play and master the instrument will add up to 10,000 hours of irritating noise. A huge part of this enormous amount of time must be focused on pushing the edge of what we know towards what we want to know better and master. These hours alone will not get us to our next level of expertise, and definitely not towards mastery. This is what it means to have deliberate practices. Focus on what needs to be accomplished and give your self the time and support to achieve it, and do so on a daily basis!
Next month, we’ll add six more ways to increase your grit factor. In the meantime, find out how gritty you are. Take the test!
C. Nathan Bergeron, LMFT, L.Ac. ©