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Three Characteristics of Grit – Your Keys to Success!

Posted by Cristina Filippo on 03/25/2015

Two weeks ago we discussed how important grit is to your success.  As a reminder, grit is passion and perseverance.  It is multi-dimensional.  It is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end-state, coupled with a powerful motivation, commitment and hard work to succeed even in the face of adversity.
Today we want to introduce you to a few of the characteristics of grit and some practical ways you can develop into a more “hardy” leader.  As we mentioned in our last blog, one of the major contributors to the field of motivation and tenacity is Dr. Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University.  She advocates for having a “growth mindset” when looking at various life challenges in which grit might be important.  People who hold a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be developed, that the brain is like a muscle that can be trained.  "More and more research in psychology and neuroscience supports the growth mindset," she writes in the journal Educational Leadership. "We are discovering that the brain has more plasticity over time than we ever imagined; that fundamental aspects of intelligence can be enhanced through learning; and that dedication and persistence in the face of obstacles are key ingredients in outstanding achievement."
While Dr. Dweck’s series of studies centered on children, it’s important to note how having a particular mindset can affect you at any age. As an example, if you are someone with a fixed mindset, you might believe basic qualities, such as intelligence, are fixed traits. Since you are often praised for your intelligence, you want to continue remaining intelligent in the eyes of others so you tend to stay away from challenges. You think failure is a personal attack on your intelligence, so you don’t recover as easily when goals go awry.  On the other hand, as someone with a growth mindset, you believe the harder you try, the more you’ll improve. You’re not afraid of taking risks, even if there’s a big chance you’ll fail along the way. You believe your experiences will form new connections that will make you smarter. According to Dr. Dweck, those people with a growth mindset have a higher chance of success in life.  We believe that your mindset is an important backdrop as we begin to discuss the various elements of grit.
The characteristics of grit outlined below include both Dr. Dweck’s studies and the follow-on research conducted by Dr. Angela Duckworth (our previous blog reviewed her research on Westpoint cadets).  As you read through the following list think about how “gritty” you might be and choose at least one possible step you can take to increase this important trait.

1. Be Courageous in the face of defeat.
Your ability to manage fear of failure is vital and a huge predictor of success.  The supremely gritty are not afraid to go down in flames, but rather embrace it as part of life. They understand that there are valuable lessons in defeat and that the vulnerability of tenacity is a pre-requisite for getting to the next level.  As Michael Jordan observed “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games.  26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”
Practical Application:  Accept failure as a natural consequence of trying.
No one likes to fail. However, recognizing that if you aren’t failing you certainly are not reaching your full potential or working at the edge of your comfort zone. How often do we stay in bad careers, relationships, or hold on to a terrible investment because our egos are too big to admit me made a mistake?  Life is short. If it isn’t working, be courageous, become more comfortable with the failure, learn, and move on.
2. Maintain Endurance when you have nothing left to give. 
In his 2007, best selling book, “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell examined the determining conditions required for optimal success. He looked at the best of the best…the Beatles, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs. How did they become so influential?  Some of Gladwell’ s findings point to dumb luck. However, the area where Gladwell and Dr. Duckworth’s research intersect is the importance of driving towards goals and lots, and lots and lots of practice…10,000 hours to be exact.  It turns out that the time commitment required to have a true competitive edge, even if predisposed with seemingly amazing talent, is at least 20 hours a week over 10 years.
Practical Application:  Deliberately practice those specific things you are not good at. 
Take a lesson from people who are gritty and ask yourself how they approach things.  This might be individuals who participate in the Itiderod (over 1,000 miles over frozen tundra!) or Olympic athletes.  How do they organize their lives and their days?  You can model what they do.  World class contenders do not just practice, but deliberately practice.  Not like, “I’m here to do a better job today.” But more like “I’m an athlete working on the angle of my elbow as it reaches,” being really specific…break it down and work on the individual parts. You need to work on the hard stuff in order to get better.
3. Remain Resilient when others doubt you.
Resilience is a dynamic combination of optimism, creativity, and confidence, which together empower one to reassess situations and regulate emotion – a behavior many social scientists refer to as…guess what? GRIT! Researchers take it even further and explain that “hardiness” is comprised of three important beliefs: (1) one has a meaningful purpose in life, (2) one can influence one’s surroundings and the outcome of events, and (3) that positive and negative experiences will lead to learning and growth.
Practical Application:  Know what your core purpose is and don’t listen to the haters.
Resilient people think differently.  They know they are here for a reason and the gifts they possess lend to a cause greater than themselves.  Once you are clear about your purpose and the contribution you can make your optimism, creativity and confidence will not allow you to listen to those people who doubt you.  Resilience is the powering mechanism that draws your head up, moves you forward, and helps you persevere despite whatever obstacles you face along the way.  In other words, gritty people believe, “everything will be alright in the end, and if it is not alright, it is not the end.” 
We hope this has given you something new to this about this week.  As a leader, we encourage you to be gritty, dig in, and make a difference!  Happy Spring!
You can take Dr. Angela Duckworth’s interactive grit test here:

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