Grit: The Not So Secret Sauce of Achieving Your Dreams and Goals


angela lee duckworth

As we embark on a new year and the meter resets to zero, hence follows the annual ritual of setting new year’s resolutions and goals. We’re all too familiar with the annual goals of losing weight, making more money, becoming more involved in our communities, and the list goes on. But we also recognize that most people lose focus on their new year's aspirations after only a few weeks of effort. We've all seen it...the inevitable influx of people joining the gym in January, then they disappear by March! This begs the question: How do you stick to your goals even through the inevitable challenges that will arise throughout the journey? In the old days, the answer usually included terms like: hard work, determination, persistence, passion, effort, or stick-to-it-ness. But the new trending word is: grit.


What is Grit and Why is it Important?

Grit is the combination of passion and persistence needed to achieve long term goals. The term has gone viral largely due to the extensive research by Angela Duckworth, a research scientist from the University of Pennsylvania. Duckworth also wrote the book on the subject which features her empirical studies on the role that grit plays in achieving success. While Duckworth’s work has helped to bring grit to the forefront of our minds, some have criticized her work suggesting that grit is merely the same old knowledge we’ve known for decades—repackaged with a new name. In reality, no matter which perspective you believe, the facts are clear, to achieve success, you must make a commitment and put in the work required to get there no matter what.

How Can We Become Grittier? 

While the science suggests there are no easy answers, you can set the conditions to be more focused on your goals by following these three strategies:

1.      Find uninterrupted time to do the work that has the biggest impact on your success.

We know that grit requires focused efforts that drive long term success. We also know that people spend a lot more time online than they used to. In fact, studies show that people spend averages of 15 to 20 hours per week online. That’s doubled over the last 10 years. Although, mobile learning online can help you become grittier, the point is that with the proliferation of smartphones and other internet-ready devices, we simply have to deal with more distractions in the way we work. Moreover, technology has also played a key role in creating our modern culture of instant gratification. As a result, we tend to know a lot more than we do. In other words, our affection with technology is one of several traps that can lull us into believing that we are doing the right things to drive our goals when we may just be engaged in busy work. Actually, Nathan W. Morris said it even better…”It’s not always that we need to do more but rather that we need to focus on less. “

2.      Honor and Celebrate Incremental Successes

While there’s hardly a consensus on which came first—success or the passion for achieving success, like the chicken and the egg, the connection between the two are unmistakable. Case and point, a couple of years ago, I had a goal of losing 20 pounds but like many others, I dreaded going to the gym and putting down my snacks and other edible pleasures. However, my chances of success went up exponentially when saw I’d lost 4 pounds after just the first week of working out and changing my diet. As a result, I started working harder at the gym and eating healthier with every week’s success. This phenomenon is well documented in many performance domains including business. When we see progress towards our goal, we tend to buy in. The cycle is progressive and repetitive which makes it difficult to pinpoint which is driving the other. But when you think about it, does that really matter? What matters is building enough momentum to take off, then continue driving yourself towards your dreams even in the face of adversity, which is almost certain to show up eventually.

 3.      If you hit a Roadblock, Regroup and Keep on Driving

Speaking of adversity, you might find this next piece of advice somewhat elementary but I push forward simply because I’ve seen it stifle so many dreams time and time again. Remember as a kid when you learned to ride a bike. You learned the old addage: “if you fall, get back up and try again,” but somewhere in the infamous wisdom of adulthood, we forget that when we fall, we can simply get back up and keep trying. Gritty people not only get back in the saddle when they fall, they seem to revel in it. The pitfalls and challenges are mentally repurposed into fuel that pushes them to even harder to overcome and reach their goal. Although this is an old cliché, remember grit is not about knowledge, it’s about action. Just because we knew something as a kid, doesn’t mean we are living it out in our daily lives. So the message here is about being grittier not just knowing about grit.

I wish you all the best in 2017 and beyond in achieving your goals and dreams!

Now let’s grit it out and go!


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