If you have it, use it. If you don’t, develop it. Then say hello to your wildest dreams.
In a world where self-improvement books are a multi-million dollar industry, it would seem that the answer to all our problems is only an Amazon order or Barnes and Noble's purchase away.
But if you’re like me, there are a few problems with these types of books.
- I don’t have time to read them.
- When I am lured into a particular book by its inside jacket or back cover claims, they often turn out to make promises they don’t keep.
So, here I am to offer you a quick piece of advice that will enhance your success more than any other read.
And it’s not a new idea but it is one that has taken the world by storm.
The key to success: grit
Grit is the ability to keep going and persevere through arduous circumstances that involve, hardship, feelings of self-doubt, and physical, mental, and emotional obstacles.
This attribute gained fame and notoriety mostly as a result of researcher and teacher Angela Duckworth’s book entitled Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, which captured the attention of the educational, business, and personal self-improvement industries as well as the general public at large.
Her studies proposed that, as far as success went, grit mattered more than a person’s IQ or talent in a given area. Ducksworth found proof for her hypothesis in a plethora of areas, her studies centering on the achievements of school-age students, West Point Military Academy Cadets, athletes, and others.
Do you have grit?
The New York Times has a link to the Grit Scale that Ducksworth used to identify the levels of grit present in an individual.
The questions on the quiz are good food for thought for those of us who wonder if we actually have what it takes to succeed in the accomplishment of our goals. (And really, who doesn’t wonder?)
They focus on questions such as our work ethic, our allegiance towards pursuing the goals we set for ourselves, and our ability to overcome and persist through challenges that present themselves on the way to accomplishing our goals.
We’ve all heard that adage that “hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”
And the quiz seems to hint that the adage is one we should reflect on when considering the reasons for our past failures and successes and deciphering how best to pursue our most passionate goals and ambitions.
How to develop grit
The good news is that grit is a skill that can be developed. Not all of us are born with exceptional talent or intelligence, but we can learn the skills that Ducksworth and many other researchers propose is even more vital to success.
Break a large goal down into actionable steps to which you commit. Focus on the process, not the product.
For example, if you are trying to accomplish the goal of weight-loss, determine a course of action consisting of small, easily applied behaviors. This may mean twenty minutes of walking every day, cutting out sugary sodas, or avoiding the vending machines at work.
If you have a career project with a looming deadline that you have been dreading getting a start-on, commit fifteen minutes a day on the job to this task.
If you are a writer whose goal is to improve your writing skills or become published, focus on dedicating one hour each day to writing or focus on submitting one pitch a week to a publication.
It is the non-negotiable aspect of this commitment to action that actually develops the grit. It “gifts” us with the discipline to “follow through” on tasks that seem burdensome, time-consuming, physically or emotionally demanding, or even simply “out of the ordinary.” It takes what used to require a major effort and makes it a habitual practice.
And these small everyday acts of “practice” are the key to success.
And the idea is that once these small steps become ingrained and are no longer as painful, we can begin to add additional action steps that will forward our progress.
We develop a sustained and relentless self-accountability towards accomplishing our goals and a steady rise in improvement at the tasks that are facing us.
Be patient and “embrace the suck.”
Understand that great goals and accomplishments are frequently more of a marathon than a quick sprint.
Understand that it will not be easy. Understand that you will suffer.
These truths are inescapable. And the quicker you come to terms with the facts, then the easier it will be to face the troubles head-on when they arise.
Also, understand and know that you will fail. Yes, I’ll say it again.
You. Will. Fail.
One day, you will trade in that twenty-minute walk for a glass of wine and a nap. One day you will sacrifice that hour of writing for a juicy new series on Netflix that you’re been dying to watch. We’re human, after all.
But failure is part of the process. And it can also be wonderfully fruitful if we learn from it. For in failing, we learn what not to do in our next steps forward.
For example, Thomas Edison is famous for saying of unsuccessful attempts at achieving a goal that “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
If we look at this idea in a positive light [get the pun], it means Edison’s failures eliminated 10,000 things that would cause him further problems in his next attempt at attaining his goal. So really, each failure moved him closer to success. And succeed he did. Because he had the magical quality of grit.
So, if you find that the exhaustion of the workday makes you give in to rest as opposed to achieving your exercise goals, then resolve to walk in the morning or during your lunch hour.
If you find that writing at home backfires because you are fending off requests and interruptions from the family, choose to move your writing to another location. Go to the library. Or with laptop in hand, find a nearby park at which to compose.
Accept that you will fall off your trusty steed leading you forward towards your dreams. Know this for a fact. But also know that when that happens, that you will simply saddle yourself back on the horse to try again, this time having more knowledge about when and what may likely cause you to “slip in the saddle” as you ride further in your journey forward to success.
Believe in Yourself and Stay Motivated
Our thoughts are brain food for our goals. If we feed our brain trash through negative self-talk and self-pity, we do not give our psyche the nourishment it needs to continue doing great things. If we feed our souls with positivity and inspiration, we give fuel to our spirit. And every spirit thirsts for motivation.
How to stay motivated?
- Go to Youtube or other sites that have motivational videos. Read books or articles that motivate or inspire you or that remind you of the great things people can accomplish with time and effort.
- Look at your past accomplishments, at times when you have overcome seemingly impossible things or endured hardships or painful situations. Remind yourself that if you did it once, you can do it again.
- Find supportive friends who will give you encouragement when times get tough or you are tempted to give up on your goals.
- Be gentle with yourself. Remind yourself you are a work in progress. And know that you only stop moving forward when you give up.
The bottom line
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
You can lead your best life. But getting to your best life will most likely be difficult. It will require time, effort, and dedication. Develop grit and use it to move you forward towards the life you crave. As Norman Vincent Peale said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. And, personally, I’m thinking the stars would be a pretty awesome landing spot. Or at least a nice resting point until grit pushes me to move even farther forward.