Why You Need Grit

At some point in life, things will get tough.  We all face challenges.  How we respond to those challenges separates top performers from the rest of the pack.  Here are some life lessons from Grit
by Angela Duckworth.

Talent is overrated

Our culture is obsessed with talent.  We idolize athletes, singers, and actors.  We celebrate winners and troll losers on social media.  Naturally, when we are looking for someone to join our team, company, or school, we look for the most talented.  However, talent distracts us from the true indicator of success: grit.  Many times the most talented quit or fail.  Sometimes this is because they have been coddled because of their talent and not receptive to the feedback that will help them improve.  Other times they think they don't have to improve because they are so talented.

While grit might sound ambiguous or like a characteristic that some people have and others don't, fortunately, you can grow grit in yourself and others.

Elements of Grit: Interest, practice, purpose, and hope

If you (or someone you know) is going through a challenge, it will help if you can find something about the challenge that's interesting.  You may have to find an area of interest for yourself.

If you're familiar with the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, you may know that becoming an expert at anything takes about 10 years or 10,000 hours.  Grit is consistent with this finding, but adds a layer of challenge.  In high school, my coaches used to say "Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect."  It's not just spending time, it's working to improve during that time.

Put another way, I hope to be able to be able to run a mile and a half in 12 minutes.  I'm not there yet, but my times are improving.  I have to keep practicing, but I also have to celebrate each second by which I improve my time and push myself to shave off additional seconds off my time every day.  Seconds add up to minutes, after all.

Purpose is another important component of grit.  If you find purpose in what you do, you will keep trying when it gets difficult.  As an educator, I find purpose in making a difference in the lives of my students so I don't complain about the challenges that come with that responsibility.  I would think people who serve as soldiers, police officers, pastors, or fire fighters deal with the challenges of those jobs when they could make more money doing other jobs because they find purpose in their work.

Do have hope that things will get better if you keep trying? If you don't, you'll probably quit.  If you do, you're more likely to keep trying until you reach your goal.

Parenting for Grit

As a parent, I obviously want my child to be successful in achieving her life's purpose.  While it's easy to tell her how great she is all the time, I have to remember that doing so isn't really helping her to achieve that goal.  Going back to an earlier point, I need to encourage growth and effort instead of talent.  If she struggles in some area, telling her she's great is dishonest and not helpful.  In addition, I don't want her to learn that if she is not meeting the standard today, that she will always be below standard.  Also, getting her used to receiving positive feedback will help her improve.  I can can be supportive while still providing constructive and honest feedback.  That way she'll know what to do with feedback in the workplace or in school.

I can also help her develop grit by reinforcing the importance of keeping her commitments.  If she wants to join a team or participate in another activity, she will need to continue to do so when times get difficult.  This will teach her how to manage multiple commitments and manage her time effectively.

Build a culture of grit on your team or in your organization

If you supervise others, you can help your team members develop grit by providing effective feedback and a growth plan.  Also create a culture where growth plans aren't viewed as punitive.   You can also develop grit in people you don't lead through your influence by modeling and communicating principles of grit and growth mindset, which I discuss in a related post.

How do you handle life's challenges?

How do you develop grit in others?

Let me know in the comments.

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