Why is it that when some people encounter obstacles to a goal it stops them, while other people gain energy from “the haters” and the challenges life presents?
The ability to bounce back from adversity and stay persistent with your passions—especially when things get tough—are traits of highly successful individuals.
Grit is something you can develop, although some individuals seem more predisposed to it.
Grit and Resilience
What is grit? Angela Duckworth is a MacArthur Fellowship winner and has a TEDtalk with over 16 million views. We will stick with her definition of grit as the “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”
Duckworth’s research has evolved around discovering why some individuals accomplish more than other individuals despite having the same talent, intelligence, and resources. She has studied an assortment of subjects from spelling bee students to West Point hopefuls in attempting to define the essence of grit.
She has discovered that grit can be related to how much you can inspire yourself, access your passion, and sustain your motivation.
Want to test your grit? Try her online questionnaire.
Or maybe it is time to feel inspired by her TedTalk. Let’s hear it from Angela:
In the words of CEO and computer scientist Shabbir Dahod:
“Angela Lee Duckworth’s research validated and furthered my beliefs in the keys to success for individuals, teams, and business. While intelligence is required, Angela demonstrated that the determining factors for success were perseverance, hard work and a drive to improve.”
If you haven’t explored her Ted Talk yet, it is under 7 minutes, and ripe with insight this idea of grit.
How Is Grit Different than Resilience?
Resilience is the ability to get back up when you’ve been knocked down or to come back fighting stronger after a loss.
The subtle differentiating factor between these two entwined character traits seems to be that resilience is the optimism to continue when you’ve experienced some failures, even during tough times when everyone else gives up. Conversely, grit is the motivational drive that keeps you on a difficult task over a sustained period of time or life.
You can remember it simply: resilience is to bounce back. Grit is to persevere.
Is the amount of grit and resilience something that you’re born with and limited to, or are these resources that you can deplete and expand?
If you are familiar with positive psychology, then you already know it is both of these truths.
A Growth Mindset
Carol Dweck’s work shows that you can change your mindset. Her research on motivation found that when students had a growth mindset, or a mindset which perceives a challenge as an opportunity to learn rather than an obstacle to overcome, they responded with constructive thoughts and their behavior showed persistence rather than defeat.
From Dweck’s research into the growth mindset, tenacity and its effects on achievement, Dweck discovered 4 factors that affect ongoing tenacity or grit, especially in educational settings:
- Their beliefs about themselves
- Their goals
- Their feelings about their social connectedness
- Their self-regulatory skills
So how does anyone translate these factors into increased grit? Below are my top 5 suggestions to increase your grit and resilience through developing a growth mindset.
Five Ways to Develop Grit & Resilience
1) Focus on Your Language Choice
Praising efforts fosters resilience and reminds people of their role in a successful outcome. Too often, young children are praised for “being smart” rather than having a good plan. When a child is praised for an ability (e.g., “You are really smart. You are so flexible.”) it teaches a fixed mindset.
Today, there are different approaches to teaching resilience in schools. Most students have only heard how smart they are (or worse), so failure feels like they aren’t smart anymore. Use language that encourages perseverance and praises effort, rather than celebrates a seemingly fixed trait.
2) Surround Yourself with People Who Persevere
Whether grit is nature or nurture is a common debate- but like all things, it’s a combination. Duckworth cites the example of height. Yes, the height of our parents affects our genes (nature) but over generations, we have evolved to be taller as a population (nurture).
Surrounding yourself with people who have both passion and perseverance towards their goals, will strengthen the mindset required to increase resilience and grit.
3) Adopt Flexible Thinking Patterns
Being less rigid in your thoughts and actions allows resilience and grit to blossom. Flexible people don’t see problems: they see opportunities for growth and learning. When every challenge is met with enthusiasm and creative thinking, you will see yourself as capable. This confidence breeds resilience.
4) Set Tiny Goals That Align with Your Purpose
People with a sense of purpose are happier. However, your purpose is very abstract and often difficult to define. By creating smaller short term goals which align with your bigger purpose, you increase your success rate and your speed of accomplishing goals. This will keep you motivated to keep persevering.
5) Build Time into Your Day for Reflection
When you take time to reflect, you bring awareness to the things you have accomplished, and the path you want to take to continue. Reflection can take the form of meditation, a journaling session, a gratitude exercise or a walk outside while you think back on your day.
When you give yourself time to reflect on your day without judgment, you can see what you have accomplished, as well as what actions you need to take tomorrow to keep moving forward. Good or bad days become equally important reflection tools: what worked for you and what didn’t?
Take Home Message
Grit is our passion and perseverance towards reaching a long-term goal.
Resilience is the optimism to keep bouncing back from failure.
Both of these traits for success are rooted in a growth mindset, and everyone can learn, develop and build your resilience and grit. Like most valuable skills, this will take practice and dedication. However, these efforts are well worth it and can have positive impacts on every aspect of your life.
What motivates you to persevere when it seems impossible? We would love to hear your thoughts in our comments section below.