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How gritty are you?

Why perseverance and performance go together
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‘Grit’ was a really trendy word about seven years ago, though more recently it’s been somewhat replaced by ‘resilience’ and a plethora of other related words. But in the world of coaching and performance, grit is a standalone word that needs its own article.

Grit was traditionally a descriptor of someone’s character, often associated with sales people, whose roles demanded stamina, a go-getting attitude and ‘pluck’. But now, it’s rightly being linked with mindset and high performance: embodying a person’s ability to maintain interest in, and put effort towards, achieving their goals.

Psychology professor Angela Duckworth brought grit into the spotlight back in 2013 when she gave this TED Talk – now one of the platform’s most popular of all time. In it, she talks about her experiences teaching math in a public secondary school, where she realised IQ wasn’t the only factor separating her best students from her worst (spoiler alert: it was grit). She went on to study an assortment of other people – military cadets, spelling bee contestants, rookie teachers in tough neighbourhoods – trying to pinpoint who among them would be the most successful in their respective ventures, and why. In all these contexts, the one characteristic that emerged as the greatest predictor of success was grit. ‘Gritty’ people had what Duckworth describes as “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals”. They maintained commitment, day in and day out, even in the face of challenges and setbacks, living life like a marathon, rather than a sprint. Because while factors such as talent, luck and intelligence all contribute to success, grit is the magic ingredient that pushes people across the finish line.

The past 18 months have shown us that individuals and businesses need grit before they can innovate and pivot (more words we’re hearing a lot right now). Without focused gritty determination to find a way, energy wanes, inspiration dissipates and innovative thinking gets lost in the noise. An individual’s grit determines their ability to succeed, to be committed and bounce back. It tells us culturally how focused they are in their vision. It can also have a broader impact on their behaviour, thoughts and wellbeing, with a review of three studies involving university students finding that grittier people were more likely to demonstrate an increased level of self-control, mental wellbeing, life satisfaction, feelings of worth, resilience and growth mindset, as well as decreased levels of stress.

If you’re thinking about making a change in your career – whether that means switching roles, industries or setting up a business – you might want to check your grit factor. Ask yourself:

  • Do you have a growth mindset?
  • How long does it take you to bounce back?
  • Can you self-manage your own motivation?
  • How passionate are you?
  • Do you depend on others to keep things moving or are you a driver?
  • Do you see opportunities where others see problems?

Let’s be clear: grittiness is not about people who go hard at all costs. Gritty people have the most successful impact when they can interpret their vision, behave with integrity, communicate masterfully and take others on the ride! So whenever you find yourself in need of a grit boost, have a think about some of the world’s most prolific success stories in any field and the obstacles they’ve had to overcome to achieve their version of greatness. Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishers before it reached the masses (and JK Rowling was told to get a day job). Steve Jobs was fired from the very company he created. Walt Disney lost his job at a newspaper because he was seen to be lacking in creativity. We can only assume it was grit that helped these people pick themselves up after each fall and continue with their efforts. And what a good thing they did.

For more on grit, Angela Duckworth’s New York Times bestseller Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance is well worth a read.

- The Coach Place Global.

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