When Angela Lee Duckworth landed a job teaching middle school math in New York City, she noticed that the kids with the highest IQ weren’t necessarily the most successful. Instead, she figured out that the one indicator that separated kids who didn’t do well from the kids who persevered was grit.
It’s the intangible quality of a true leader. It’s the secret sauce and key factor that contributes to success. It’s the substance of a person who falls and fails, and gets back up, to continue to go after her goals.
Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint. - Angela Lee Duckworth, Ted talk, "The Key to Success? Grit"
If IQ, social intelligence, and talent is what introduces you to the game, then grit is what will keep you in and take you to the top. The good news is, grit is a skill and habit that can be developed, if you’re intentional and committed to your personal success in the long run.
Here are 10 ways to grow your grit, or to inspire grittiness in those around you.
1. Introduce a regular exercise routine.
When we grow grit in one area of our lives, it tends to spill over into other areas. By incorporating exercise into your daily routine, we will overcome physical and mental demands and develop of keystone habit of health. Challenge yourself to increase time or intensity every time you exercise. For example, if you swim, you can start with swimming 10 laps, then adding 2 laps every day or swimming in a faster time. You can keep track of your progress as your overcome obstacles and fatigue, and grow your muscles as well as your grit.
2. Turn failure into feedback.
When we commit to change and pursuing our best, there will be times of “failure.” Reframing failure into feedback is an opportunity to learn from mistakes, grow, and learn valuable insights like what worked and what didn’t. “Failure” is a necessary part of the process. The trick is to separate your identity from your actions. Instead of “I am a failure,” which triggers shame of who I am, you can say, “I made a mistake, and had a learning opportunity.” Some feedback questions I like to consider are: What went well? What could be even better if I did this again? What’s a fresh take that I haven’t thought of before? Taking to time to reflect on these questions will hopefully create awareness and inspire you to continue to take action moving forward.
3. Set an intention, and let go of the outcome.
This point is about working with what’s within your control. When you’re gritty and going after your goals, your focus is showing up and doing the work that only you can do. The actual result or outcome may depend on outside factors, but do what you can and let go of the rest. For example, setting the intention of posting one photo a day on IG is within your control, and letting go of people’s responses and reactions are not. Committing to calling a prospective client is within your control, and letting go of wondering whether or not they hire you is not. Do what you can, let go of the rest.
4. If you’re emotional, give yourself an emotional “limit” before you get back into action.
When there are setbacks and obstacles, it’s normal to experience feelings like disappointment, frustration, embarrassment, or anger. Like a toddler who’s dealing with a temper tantrum, give yourself a time-out to fully feel your emotions and acknowledge why you’re feeling them. It also helps to deep a few deep breaths to calm down and get your brain in a creative space instead of reactive. Give yourself the time and space to process what’s happening, and then of course, get back into action.
5. Set a small, achievable goal to work on a skill every day.
If you want to grow your grit through growing a skill, start with taking one small, measurable step each day. Give yourself check in points once a week, and at the end of the month, reflect on the progress you created from day to day 30.
6. Expect challenges and frustrations, and plan ahead to counter them.
If growing your grit means overcoming obstacles over the long haul, then you can get ahead the game by anticipating your personal obstacles and making plans to counter them. Tend to binge on Netflix when you don’t know what steps to take next? Counter it by asking a friend to check in on your progress, setting limits on your TV time, or use your favorite TV series as a reward for your hard work. Not motivated to do work by yourself? Initiate a co-working day at a local coffee shop with your fellow solopreneur friends where you can have human contact while you hustle. When you know your typical time sucks and hang ups, you can be proactive and reducing its effect on you and your progress.
7. Embrace fear, and do it afraid.
There’s no real way to get rid of fear, so might as well embrace it! Ever heard of fight or flight? The purpose of fear is to protect you from harm, telling you to run from predators, or warning you that you might get embarrassed if you speak your mind. Acknowledge what and why you’re feeling it, and just do something. The worst thing is to do nothing, and let fear win.
8. Practice, practice, practice.
As the saying goes, “practice makes perfect” but really, “practice make progress” and that’s how we grow grit. Sometimes it just takes repetition to get the hang of something and learn the mechanics of it before we can really get creative and make our own. For example, a photographer may practice shooting in manual mode before feeling comfortable to take creative portraits. Or, a student learning piano may have to practice scales before attempting “Fur Elise.”
9. Play up your interests and curiosity. Have fun!
Yes, I believe that growing your grit can be fun! Sometimes approaching it with a playful attitude of interest and curiosity will make it feel less like work, and more like, play. Pretend you’re a kid again with a childlike wonder and do things for the sake of pure joy, and with no pressure to perform. What’s something you find interesting and can talk to an expert about? What’s a “ maybe later” project you wanted to do just for the sake of doing it?
10. Celebrate your wins. Recognize when you’re making progress, because you are making progress.
Typically, the growth progress feels like you’re taking two steps forward, and one step back. Recognize when you’re putting in the effort, even if you’re not seeing immediate results. Take time to celebrate your wins, no matter how small or big. Got your first paying client? YES!!!! Said no to a new opportunity so you can spend quality time with your family? Awesome! Reached out and hired a coach to help keep you on track? Good for you! There’s a long journey ahead, might as well stop and celebrate along the way.
Now I want to hear from you! What’s one way you grow your grit to pursue your long-term goals and dreams? Leave your thought and comments below!
PS: As a bonus, you can see how “gritty” you currently are by taking this assessment!