Do you have grit?

Martins Zemlicker

Do you live life like it’s a marathon or a sprint? I think the marathoners are better suited to the long haul. But physical fitness aside, what attributes predict success in the marathon of life? The answer, according to one psychologist is “grit”.

What is grit?
In essence, it is the power of passion and persistence to achieve very long-term goals. This idea was presented by Angela Lee Duckworth at a TED talk three years ago. If you missed it, you can catch up here (5 minute talk).

What it takes to be gritty
According to Duckworth, it is having the staying power to achieve your end game despite the challenges that may be presented along the way. It requires stamina. It requires the perseverance to stick with your plan and work hard at it.  She says it requires “living life like it’s a marathon not a sprint“.

I liken it to doing a challenging workout. At the outset it can seem insurmountable. If you let that idea take hold though, it will be – and seem to be – throughout the whole experience. If you just focus on completing one part at a time and just keep on going without thinking about it too much, you generally get through. I think the psychological barrier is an important one. Mindset is everything.

Having a gritty mindset
The work of another psychologist, Carol Dweck gets a mention here. Dweck’s concept of a growth mindset focuses on building an awareness of the way the brain responds to challenges such that people understand that failure is not permanent. With perseverance and effort, they know they can learn and overcome previous setbacks.

Self-belief is an important component, as is surrounding yourself with supportive people. By that I mean people who encourage others, rather than just criticise. There is a place for constructive feedback, where it is framed in terms of changes that may lead to a better outcome. But negativity and criticism without scope for improvement is a tough atmosphere to flourish in, let alone overcome challenges.

Gritty supporters
Perhaps what is needed is “gritty supporters”? That is, people who are consistent in their belief in you and your ability to succeed. I am not thinking of a cheer squad of Pollyannas either! I mean the people in your life who are authentic in seeing your potential, believing you will get there, even when the chips are down. They too need perseverance to maintain their support and belief when yours may wane. They also need a large serving of human empathy and kindness to carry out this role.

In a world where media and social media are adept at presenting the negative news of the day, and the political world is full of vitriol and critique it is easy to fall prey to forces that can undermine effort. What would it be like to reverse that and have that good news channel that Noni Hazlehurst has called for? Something that will require a lot of “grit” to get up I think.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you learnt to be gritty?

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