Grit is a big concept in the personal development space right now. Whether you quit easily or have the tenacity to keep going even in the hardest of times, depends on a lot of factors. Today I’m talking about how to cultivate more grit.
Grit – in Merriam-Webster terms is defined as firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger. Researchers, such as Angela Duckworth have changed the field of play a little bit. She describes grit as the combination of perseverance and passion for long term goals.
While some would argue that Duckworth’s definition isn’t the same as the true meaning of grit, I prefer her outlook. She discusses how grit usually comes with purpose and meaning. Sticking with something, just for the sake of saying that you stuck with it is pointless, and can be damaging.
For this article I wanted to give you some tools that you could use to help yourself cultivate more grit when it comes to the goals that are important to you. I’m not here to help you stick with something you hate for no good reason. Climbing Mt. Everest “because it was there” might take perseverance, but the wherewithal that it takes to actually follow through with a monumental goal is more what grit is all about.
Very few things in life that we want come to us easily and right off the bat. Many of them take years of hard work and determination to achieve. If we give up quickly then we’ll never get what we want.
Grit is the resilience and focus that it takes to keep on keeping on even in the face of difficult challenges and failures. However, there is a dark side of grit. One I never really considered before I read this article.
While I still believe that grit is an important quality to develop, it must be noted that sticking with something that is draining you physically, emotionally, or financially for the sole purpose of sticking with it, is pointless and unhealthy.
There must be a balance between your grittiness and your flexibility. You need to have the ability to stick with your overall, purpose driven goal, but be willing to pivot and change your tactics on a day to day basis. You can stick with something long term without sticking with the methods that you started with.
For example, I used to be a runner. I loved running long distances. It was part of my identity. But there got to be a point when my body was no longer on board with running, I didn’t have enough hours (I’m slow) to fit it in, and it started to feel like a chore.
So I pivoted. I didn’t have to stick with running just to say I ran my whole life. If it’s no longer serving you, you can move on. I moved on to working out at home to videos while my kids played around me. I didn’t just give up on exercise all together just because running was not realistic anymore.
I had to have the grit to stick with working out to take care of my body, but also the flexibility to know when I was doing more harm than good and change my methods.
This is the kind of grit you want to cultivate. The kind that serves your long term, this-is-my-calling level goals. The kind that keeps you going, but doesn’t stagnate you into feeling like you have to keep going just to say you did it.
GRIT AND GOALS
In the dictionary definition of grit, nothing is listed about having a focus on long term goals. That is added in Duckworth’s interpretation to aid in focusing her research.
However, as I’ve stated above, I believe it helps you enhance your chances of being gritty. Knowing WHY you’re doing something is so much more motivating than just going through the motions.
The goal is the why that will help keep you motivated in the face of adversity. It’s the guiding star that can help you focus your efforts.
And as long as you are willing to keep an open mind and look at the goal from different angles it can help you maintain the balance between grit and flexibility. For example, when you recognize that a goal of helping others through philanthropy could mean becoming wealthy and donating your money, but could also mean working with people and companies who do philanthropic work it allows you to see more options about how to reach your goal.
GRIT AND FAILURE
The times where our grit becomes apparent is in the face of adversity and failure. Our society is rife with perfectionism which will prevent you from cultivating grit. No one has ever made it to the top of any field without failing. They probably failed many times. It might not be the thing they want to publicize the most, but I guarantee you it happened.
The reason the successful have gotten to where they are isn’t that they never failed, it’s that they didn’t let their failures define them.
In order to cultivate true grit you must learn to view failures as a learning experience. Michael Jordan has missed tons of shots. Elon Musk crashed many a rocket. Even Warren Buffet has had failed investments.
But the reason you’ve heard of any of these people is because they didn’t throw in the towel at the first sign of failure. They had the optimism and resilience to see the failure as simply a failed practice attempt and not an end to their work.
GRIT AND TIME
One of the absolute hardest things about trying to achieve a big goal is often the realization of how long that’s going to take. A musician might start playing violin at 4 years of age but not make it into a professional orchestra until after college. A scientist might spend a decade doing research before anyone notices their findings.
The actual length of a “long term” goal is not defined. Both Angela Duckworth and Malcolm Gladwell have come to the conclusion that it takes about 10,000 hours of focused practice before you become a master. But it’s more than just time.
There’s so much that can go into getting where you want to go, and you’re only one person. If you’re willing to forgo short term gratification in the name of achieving your long term goals, you’re more likely to succeed.
Part of grit is understanding that big accomplishments don’t happen over night, but also don’t happen all at once. It’s the decision every day to workout instead of Netflix and chill or putting in that extra hour of work when you’d rather not that is going to get you where you want to be in the long run.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Just as Duckworth makes clear in her book Grit, focused practice is the way to achieve your goals. So too, focused practice is what is going to exercise your grit muscle. By practicing on a smaller scale, you can then start to build the strength and resilience that it will take for you to have grit in the long term.
Below is a simple exercise to help you strengthen your grit:
- Start with a small goal
Something simple, realistic, short term. Maybe you want to bring your lunch every day to work for a week or exercise every day for a month. Make it simple, actionable, clear and positive. We’re not quitting anything here, we’re starting something new and beneficial.
- Do all the little things that it takes to achieve this goal.
If you want to take lunch every day maybe that means packing it the night before and also means stocking up at the grocery store over the weekend. It doesn’t seem like skipping one of the small things would derail your goals, but that’s where the long term focus needs to beat the instant gratification. If hitting snooze means you don’t get to workout in the morning which means you won’t get your workout in at all, then you need to do the small action of skipping the snooze. Overcome the instant gratification of sleeping another 9 minutes so that you can achieve the long term goal of working out every day.
- Make your behaviors habits
The first part of making something a habit is simply doing it consistently over time. Eventually it will become ingrained. However, that is easier said than done because there will be the need to do it even when you’re not motivated to do it. Motivation is fleeting. It comes and goes without any say so from you. What helps here is seeing this thing that you’re trying to start not as just something that you do, but something that you are. Make it part of your identity. You’re not just working out you are someone that works out – an athlete. You’re not just taking lunch because it’s healthy and saves money – you are healthy and you are careful with your spending. By adopting this new goal and making it a part of who you are, you will find more motivation than if you just see it as something you’re just doing right now.
Grit is a combination of focus, resilience, purpose, passion, and optimism. By breaking focusing on a long term goal you feel aligned with you can increase your grittiness. And by applying a short term exercise such as the above you can learn to increase your overall grit.
Do you struggle with achieving your long term goals? Coaching with me can help you clarify what you want to achieve and the best path to get there. You can contact me here.