Do you want to be more successful? Then you need to get more grit. Years of research by Dr. Angela Duckworth shows that grit is a better predictor of long-term success than IQ or talent. Paul Wong agrees by saying, “Nothing can replace persistence. Grit always beats talent in achieving your life goals.”
Various studies have shown that men with higher grit levels are more likely to stay married; children with higher grit are more successful in the Scripps National Spelling Bee; grit predicts persistence and achievement in the US Military Academy at West Point. Research by the University of Sheffield showed that grit has a significant effect on work performance. People with grit stick to their jobs longer, are more committed to their employers, and work harder.
What Is Grit?
Sebastian Bailey (the President of Mind Gym Inc.) defines grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals. It’s our ability to remain unshaken in pursuit of objectives and our stamina in the face of adversity.” In other words, grit is about holding steadfast to a goal even when there are bumps in the road and progress toward the goal is slow. While talent, luck, and intelligence matter to success, in the long run, it appears that grit matters more.
How Do We Develop More Grit?
The good news is that we can develop more grit in ourselves. The three keys are:
To help develop grit, practice the Hard Thing Rule, which has three parts:
Part one: Select at least one hard thing that requires daily and deliberate practice. It could be taking a university class, starting an exercise program, or writing a book.
Part two: Do not quit, especially on a bad day. You must choose a period of time — for example, a semester or a season — and stay committed during that time.
Part three: Only you are allowed to pick your hard thing. Nobody picks it for you because it would make no sense to do a hard thing you are not interested in.
Dr. Duckworth has found that the “grittiest” people tend to have developed their passions from personal interests and also from the broader purpose to contribute to the well-being of others. This altruistic motivation to help others coincides with the Servant Leadership philosophy that many of us aspire to practice.
How can we develop more of a purpose? Here are three ideas to consider:
1. Reflect on how what you’re already doing can make a positive contribution to the world. Ask yourself how the world can become a better place — and then draw connections to what you are already doing or could do. Consider the volunteer work you have been involved with. I have served and worked with a number of non-profit organizations, and all of them benefit society in some way.
2. Think about how in small but meaningful ways you can enhance your connection to your core values. One approach is to think about the intrinsic benefits to the work we do. For example, a person who works in the mail center is doing more than earning a paycheck; they are helping people to communicate and be successful in meeting organizational and personal goals.
3. Find inspiration in a purposeful role model. Dr. Bill Damon is a developmental psychologist who has studied purpose for more than 40 years. He suggests we ask ourselves: Can I think of someone whose life inspires me to be a better person? Who? Why? It could be a family member, historical person, or someone else who sets an inspiring example. I have been blessed with several role models in my life, including my father, who modeled the joy of volunteerism to help others.
Grit depends on the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future. Here are two suggestions to help develop an optimistic outlook:
Adopt a growth mind-set. A growth mindset leads to optimistic views of adversity, leading you to seek out new challenges and become stronger. Margaret Thatcher inspires by saying, “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”
Practice optimistic self-talk. We can be aware of negative thinking and intentionally make a conscious effort to look for the positives in all events that come our way.
Free Grit Score! How gritty are you? You can get a feel for your grittiness by taking the 10 Question Grit Scale questionnaire found at the website www.AngelaDuckworth.com.
How Do We Develop Grit in Others?
The best environment to strengthen grit in others is one that promotes confidence and self-belief and actively develops a culture of social support. Recognizing and celebrating grit is important because rewarding a moment of grittiness in one team member can foster it in others. There are two key ways to create a culture of grit on our teams: by working to shift people’s mindsets and by developing others’ ability to handle stress.
To change mind sets, Sebastian Bailey suggests the following:
· Look at the big picture. Charles Noble counseled, “You must have long-range goals to keep you from being frustrated by short range failures.” Grit is focused on the long term — remaining committed as well as pushing past challenges. As we know with any long-term goal or project, interest can sometimes wane. Leaders can help to keep people engaged and committed by continually reminding them of the journey and the end benefits.
· Encourage others to increase their sense of control. Constantly focusing on things outside our control is frustrating. Instead, help people to focus on what they can control or at least influence.
· Empower employees to be open to change. Grit is not about following a single course of action no matter what. Being flexible and seeing obstacles as a challenge, not a threat, is the key to creating a culture of grit.
· Allow people to work through their emotions. Emotions like confusion and frustration come with being human and are not signs that we should give up. People with grit sometimes feel confused or frustrated, but keep going despite them. Leaders can set a positive example by being transparent with some of our frustrations and keep going despite them. By doing so, we will inspire our team members to do the same.
We can use stress to develop ourselves and our team members. This requires that we create an environment where trying but failing is acceptable. I agree with Albert Einstein when he said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Pursue an environment where trying something but failing is seen as a chance for learning, growth, and opportunity to learn how to overcome challenges.
It is also recommended for us in leadership roles to aim for excellence, not perfection. This will keep momentum going and everyone moving forward.
Here are two closing quotes to consider. Barrett Brooks encourages us to personal success when he said, “Develop grit to be great.” Bill Hybels inspires us be a good example to our team members by saying, “Leadership grit begets grit. Lead by example.” Grit. Get. Some.
Wes Friesen is a proven leader and developer of high performing teams. Wes and his teams have earned multiple awards from a variety of organizations over the years. He has extensive experience in leadership and management roles in both the business and non-profit worlds. He is also an accomplished university instructor and conference speaker.
His book, Your Team Can Soar! Powerful Lessons to Help You Lead and Develop High Performing Teams has 42 valuable lessons that will inspire you and give you practical pointers to help you — and your team — soar to new heights of performance. The book is jampacked with proven ideas from a wide variety of experts that will help you better understand and apply the keys to greater personal and team success.