Do you have a goal that you long to reach, but it seems almost impossible? What if the apparent impossibility is a simple lack of grit? Is grit the secret to having more results simply to increase your level of perseverance, to continue without giving up, to have more passion for what we do?
Today, we’re going to talk about grit. It’s a word we all use in our everyday lives, but that we often forget to put into practice.
Angela Duckworth’s research argues that the secret to great achievement isn’t talent, but a mixture of passion and perseverance that she calls “grit.” Grit is the title of a best-selling book that I’m introducing to you today.
Having grit helps us to achieve our goals, live a purposeful life and not give up in the face of frustration. The grit theory has been considered revolutionary and also controversial, as it can seem to put blame on students that don’t have grit.
What does it mean to have grit?
To have grit is to be perseverant. It’s to be resilient and hardworking to the point of facing all difficulties, obstacles and even failures. It’s to steadily seek improvement. That’s why Arata Academy’s motto is “Your continued improvement”.
Besides perseverance, having grit can also mean being passionate about something.
Take the case of very successful people. Research how they behave. In their case, the journey is as important as the end result. Even if some of the things they had to do were boring, frustrating or even painful, they wouldn’t even dream of giving up. Their passion is truly enduring.
When I’m talking about successful people, what I mean is that the person is living the life he or she would like to live. A person who has reached his goals. And to achieve any goal, everyone has to go through these five stages:
1. Interest – when you discover something worth fighting for;
2. Engagement – the courage to take on that project and engage fully;
3. Practice – the act of doing what has to be done and working towards the desired goal;
4. Purpose – the intention to contribute to the well-being of other people;
5. Hope – the ability to stand up after a fall, believing that the effort will bring results regardless of the time it will take.
This journey will be most effective when you have the most grit in your life.
Grit is not talent
You may have noticed that we haven’t mentioned talent. Is talent important to success? Yes, of course. But talent alone is no guarantee that you have grit.
Talent seems impressive, because we tend to believe that we’re dealing with special people who achieve results with little effort. We don’t tend to give enough credit to the people that have had perseverance, strength, and many years of training. We live in a world that gives too much value to talent, and that undermines having grit.
To be clear: Grit is not talent. Grit is not how intensely, at the moment, you want something. To have grit is to have a “supreme concern” – a goal that you care about so much, that it gives meaning to almost everything you do. Even when you fall. Even when everything goes wrong.
Natural talent isn’t the main ingredient in determining success. Having grit is a much more valuable quality. Look at these formulas:
Talent x effort = skill
Skill x effort = achievements
Talent is how fast your skills improve when you put in the effort. Think about a sports competition. It’s no use just to have talent. It’s necessary to strive. This is how you develop skill.
Achievement is what happens when you use the skills you acquired. But just having skill isn’t enough. It also takes effort.
As the equations show, the effort is the most important factor. The effort increases the level of our ability and also increases the quality and quantity of results that we achieve.
It’s no use having a high IQ if the person doesn’t have grit. Talented people that don’t have grit don’t know how to take advantage of their own potential.
When you examine people of the same age and even socioeconomic level, those who have the most grit reach higher levels of education. People with more grit make fewer career changes. They don’t change their minds all the time.
So the main factor that determines success is grit, and grit is the combination of passion and perseverance.
Passion in the sense of purpose, knowing that what we do makes sense to us and to the world. Passion is defined not as the intensity of interest, but rather as the consistency of that interest over very long periods of time-years, decades, or even a lifetime.
Perseverance relates to the willpower with which we approach our goals. Perseverance is the ability to continue through times of frustration.
Grit, then, is the power of perseverance. Not just persevering without thinking, being stubbord and with brute force, but rather, having grit means persevering intelligently, with a clear intention behind your actions. I’ll explain this shortly when we talk about deliberate practice.
Before that, we will learn more about the personal characteristics of those who have grit.
Characteristics of a person with a grit
Having grit is associated with two other characteristics: self-control and conscientiousness.
Conscientiousness? Yes, that’s right. It’s the ability to have discipline, to plan your own actions, your own choices. To be conscientious is to be conscious of who you are and what you do. If you have great self-control or great conscientiousness, you’re very likely to succeed.
A person with grit has a growth mindset. They understand that people change, people evolve. There are many growth opportunities now and in the future. Do you think you are also like that? Can you see how you are able to change and improve?
Reflect: what are the little things you can do every day to achieve your long-term life goals? Where can you increase your perseverance and resilience? How do you feel about these questions? They indicate your level of grit.
To have more grit, you need to cultivate your willpower. Becoming a master at what you do is something that requires a lot of hard work. Practicing a lot is the price you pay to become the best in your field and developing meaningful work.
In this journey, you will experience frustration. But you can only improve when you commit to constant practice. You will make mistakes in the process. These errors and failures are normal. In fact, they are needed.
The person with grit has patience. Developing grit is a process that takes time, and many people just don’t invest the time that they need to into this.
The person with grit does not settle for less. Sometimes you have to give up something good to achieve something great.
The person with grit is resilient. You can build the resilience that you need to succeed in life by not giving up as soon as you encounter a hurdle.
Some people are born focused, determined, inflexible in the face of setbacks and persistent in pursuing grand goals. We can say that in these rare cases, they were born with grit.
Most of us, you and I, have to develop grit. We have to strengthen our determination over time. Time and training can build grit.
How can I develop grit?
Time and training can develop grit. Having grit is a skill that can be learned and developed from the moment we realise that our ability to learn isn’t fixed, it is flexible!
Many people go through life believing that they can’t learn new things because they did not do well at school, or because they’re too old. The truth is that our brain has the capacity to continue learning. We just need to practice.
Here are four steps for you to develop grit:
1. Experimentation. First, we want to try out different pastimes and then abandon those activities for a specific period. The more we expose ourselves to different activities, be it music, sport or art, the more we discover what we’re truly passionate about. In order for you to choose which field of activities you want to cultivate and develop your grit on, it’s important that you have had different experiences.
2. Deliberate practice. Secondly, our grit has to be applied strategically. It will be a great waste to use your willpower to simply repeat the same mistakes without evolving. There’s a video in which I talk about deliberate practice, you can take a look in this link here– I’ll explain more about deliberate practice in a minute.
3. Purpose. The third step is purpose. To develop grit, we must also find a purpose in what we do. Knowing that our work benefits others in some way, be it friends, family, students or colleagues, is extremely motivating.
4. Proactivity. As a fourth step, to develop grit, we need to be proactive and take responsibility for our results. We shouldn’t only expect our situation to improve by chance, but rather to understand that a large part of what happens to us each day is under our control. Having grit involves recognising that, by our own efforts, we can improve our future.
Next, let’s look at deliberate practice in more depth.
Using deliberate practice to get more grit
If you want to increase your results, you need to use “deliberate practice.”
Each day, we must challenge ourselves to become a little better than yesterday. It’s not enough to just make an effort without an improvement strategy. Deliberate practice has four parts:
1. Set a goal – something that’s beyond your reach now, but can be achieved if you put some effort in.
2. Focus – get rid of distractions such as cell phones and TV. Focusing attention on doing quality work is necessary to improve. If you need to learn how to improve your focus, visit this link here.
3. Seek feedback – it’s more valuable for you to find out what you did wrong than what you did right. Feedback is useful information that will show what was good and what you should continue and also indicates what might not have been so good and what you should do differently to improve. Feedback should be immediate and informative. It should be specific, stating what aspects of your performance need to change.
4. Reflect and refine – this phase involves reflecting on what has been learned and what still needs more work. Next, you need to repeat the deliberate practice process again. This is the process of continuous improvement. Your continued improvement.
In short, your deliberate practice should contain a conscious plan so that you don’t waste your time repeating your efforts on autopilot. It’s no use trying and making the same mistakes. There’s no point in making an effort without seeking improvement. You should think intelligently about how you’re improving. It’s because of this that many students and professionals fail to make progress, despite dedicating tens of thousands of hours to one activity. There must be deliberate practice.
Helping children to develop grit
Want to help your kids or loved ones improve their grip? Or, if you don’t have children, do you want to understand what educational principles you can apply to your own situation?
We need to celebrate hard work and perseverance in what matters. It’s important that children have good examples set for them, including access to excellent teachers, peers, and the general environment. All this has a degree of influence in the formation of the individual.
Pay attention to your language and praise. For example, when you are faced with a child who has a great outcome without putting much effort in, there’s a temptation to give them praise. A very common thing to say is, “So-and-so, you’re a genius! You didn’t even have to study and you managed to get a good grade!”
Rather than fall into the temptation to praise what can be considered a talent with little effort, it may be more advantageous to praise the effort made, even if the end result isn’t as remarkable. It will be valuable to say, “So-and-so, congratulations on your effort! I know how hard you worked! Your commitment was great and that’s what matters most.”
The difference is enormous: when we praise children for the outcome they have, they may have the tendency to just pursue simple challenges. We are thus educating children to avoid new experiences, new learning and, even worse, we’re not giving due emphasis to the importance of intelligent effort.
It’s more important to encourage long-term and consistent effort than to encourage punctual efforts. That means it’s better to have a habit of studying one hour a day than to stop sleeping and stay up all night studying. Success takes time. Moderate effort that is continued for a long time ends up being more valuable than an intense effort that has no continuity.
Evaluation of the grit theory
So far, we’ve just presented a synthesis of the main ideas of the Grit theory. However, it’s important to always be critical. So, here are the main criticisms of the Grit theory that was proposed by Angela Duckworth:
1. We don’t know exactly how to teach someone to develop grit. The steps outlined above are not an official part of the school curriculum. Some critics say that grit is a stable personality trait, perhaps part of conscientiousness. If this is true, then the level of a person’s grit usually stays the same over time. Even if it’s possible to change it, it can be a very slow and difficult process to control.
2. Grit requires passion for long-term goals. Not many students go to school for this purpose.
3. The interaction of grit and emotions can cause unwanted effects. Having grit involves two psychological resources: self-discipline and self-control, both require the ability to manage emotions and thoughts.
Encouraging or forcing students to have grit can do more harm than good if there’s no emotional maturity. When things get tough, emotions such as fear or anger can arise.
Use a little empathy to imagine a student who is already frustrated and stressed because he or she doesn’t have the best academic performance. Can you imagine how it could get even worse if someone were to just tell them to get more grit?
4. Further research is still needed. The research on grit leaves many questions unanswered. Marcus Credé and his colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of all previous research on grit. They have found no evidence that grit is a good indicator of success or that it’s possible to increase grit.
It’s important to understand the criticisms of grit theory because many educators have embraced this hypothesis without much questioning. Before you go out investing resources to find ways to improve student achievement, we have to see if it’s a worthwhile mission.
What is success? Success is you being able to accomplish what you want.
Set yourself a definite long-term goal. It’s probably a very large and complex goal. The ideal is to divide it into smaller pieces. Set yourself daily and intermediate goals to help you achieve this great goal.
These great dreams and aspirations are what lead you to find your grit. For example, you could make your long term goal, your purpose, to become a space engineer. You need to understand that you will also need to identify the smallest day to day tasks that you must perform consistently to naturally achieve this huge goal. For example, cultivating the habit of studying and solving exercises.
Without incorporating the habit of carrying out the small tasks, you won’t be able to keep your grit and to go after your great objectives.
You have to keep in mind that time and energy are limited, so in your quest for success, you must make choices and decide what will and will not do. As a rule, you will also need to strive to reach your goal for a longer time than you think necessary.
Be careful not to be a part of the generation of impatient people, who can’t spend more than a few weeks studying a subject, who can’t stay in the same job or in a loving relationship.
These people who change their plans are people who have a romantic view of the world. They feel that the first frustration is a sign that they must abandon everything and seek the next adventure. However, to take advantage of the good side of things you need perseverance, understanding, patience, grit and will to improve. Constantly changing your goals is hardly going to bring you real happiness.
Understand that people with grit have learned to enjoy effort, learned to deny easy living for something more valuable to them: growth. They weren’t born strenuous, focused or determined. They have learned to model these characteristics by practice and repetition.
We mentioned the evaluation of grit theory. Despite the criticisms of the theory, one thing is certain and unquestionable. Logically, when you give up, you will have fewer results than if you had enough persistence to continue until you reach the goal.
What you need to do is to train your ability not to give up ahead of time. Let’s do an activity for this.
Think of your greater purpose in life.
Now, think of a single small simple action that you can start right now and incorporate into your daily life. A habit that, if carried out every day, will bring you closer to your goal. A practice that, combined with your grit, will turn into a skill. This ability, combined with more grit, will turn into results.
Ready? Great. What you need to do now is to develop the habit that will help you gain this consistency. For more information about this, visit this link here.