Everyone thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life from an early age. I was driven. Dedicated. Tenacious. The one who did incredibly well in school (we all know that school is mostly memorizing what the teacher and books say then repeating it for a test, right?)
I stayed committed. Focused. And built perseverance even through some tough challenges I encountered. People told me I would never be a female that would succeed in engineering or a similar male-dominated field. But with my passion for changing the world and creating processes and procedures (simplifying people's lives), matched with never giving up, I succeeded.
In my work with leadership development and coaching, I often encounter high-achieving individuals who followed all the right steps to become successful but feel stuck because they aren’t satisfied with their jobs and are unsure as to what to do next.
In studying and researching high-achievers across different fields such as sports, arts and business, I found that grit - a combination of passion and perseverance for an important goal— was a key factor in their success, so much more than inherent talent.
And the coolest thing? Grit can be cultivated!
So how does a person enhance or create grit?
Think about it.....isn't it hard to have passion for something you are not interested in? But how do you even create a passion? Don't you hate those people who talk about how you should "just" follow your passion and things will work out for you? Yeah, not always.
Passion requires discovery. A deep discovery of oneself over an extended period of time. Falling in love with a vocation or a subject matter demands that we spend the extensive effort on understanding what it’s all about and developing specific expertise.
Practice makes perfect right? Or deliberate practice makes better, I like to say! Athletes, chess players and writers are a great example of achievers who constantly analyze their outcomes and work meticulously for years on end to refine their strategies and styles.
When was the last time you found something you had an interest in and intently focused on refining it?
This is always a huge one I find when working with clients.
It can be hard to sustain a lifetime interest without having the conviction that one’s work matters. So many individuals feel burned out because they don’t see the impact of their work on their organizations or community.
Finding something that interests you but is also connected to the well-being of others (colleagues, family members, clients, community) or to a bigger picture mission is an important driver of interest and practice.
Without hope, there is no future. Read this quote about the concept of learned optimism from Angela Duckworth:
"Optimists,[..] are just as likely to encounter bad events as pessimists. Where they diverge is in their explanations: optimists habitually search for temporary and specific causes of their suffering, whereas pessimists assume permanent and pervasive causes are to blame.”
We are extremely skilled at inventing explanations for our reality. If you want to develop your grit, practice re-framing failures and figuring out how to treat situations as “fixable” versus permanent.