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Passion definitely makes success and goal attainment easier, but what many forget about is Passion’s more responsible, and somewhat boring, older sister – Perseverance. Perseverance is also known as persistence, resilience, motivation, drive, tenacity, determination, resolve, and the now, new and trendy term – Grit.
Grit = staying power
Angela Duckworth is Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. An advocate of grit, she founded the Character Lab. She states that, ‘’Grit is a critical strength of most people who are successful. It is especially complex because it is related to other skills and mindsets such as optimism, purpose, the growth mindset, bravery, and even self-control.”
Grit can be seen in follow through, goal commitment and getting back up after failure. Research shows that grit can predict achievement, especially in tasks where mental stamina is required.
Angela maintains that it’s often not the top performers or the most intelligent people that achieve the highest success; it is those with grit, those that have the staying power to persevere, despite setbacks, and those who hang in there and put in the effort. However, there is more to grit than merely rolling with the punches; there is also a deepening interest in the subject matter. People that are truly ‘gritty’ will likely mature in their specified area of interest. Grit then seems to support passion and passion feeds grit.
Although the jury is still out with regards to whether grit can be solely taught, Angela does suggest three ways to encourage grit in children, and these principles can be applied to adults too: 1) Realise the importance of practice, 2) practice is hard work and 3) feedback is necessary. Overarching these principles is long-term thinking, the ability to see far into the future and how the behaviours and tasks of today impact on the future goal they are trying to attain.
More and more employers are realising that there is much more to valuable employees than IQ, qualifications and school grades, and they are turning towards non-cognitive criteria such as grit when hiring. Kristen Hamilton, CEO and co-founder of Koru Inc. and Advisor, Investor at RemindHQ, writes in her blog what she looks for in prospective employees that demonstrate grit: bouncing back from failure, dependability, taking responsibility for their own learning, authenticity and willingness to go outside of their comfort zone.
The corporate athlete
Grit is not just the work of the employee though. In their Harvard Business Review: The Making of a Corporate Athlete Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz link grit to corporate athletes – those individuals who manage their physical and emotional energy. Their message to organisations is simple: if they want the best from their employees, their employees need to be at their best, “Companies can’t afford to address their employees’ cognitive capacities whilst ignoring their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. On the playing field or in the boardroom, high performance depends as much on how people renew and recover energy as on how they expend it, on how they manage their lives as much as on how they manage their work. When people feel strong and resilient – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – they perform better, with more passion, for longer. They win, their families win, and the corporations that employ them win.”
It is not difficult to see how staying power and resilience often breed success, but what is interesting is the common thread in many success stories wherein the lead character is not a highly intelligent, university educated, or ‘lucky’ person. Rather, many times they are people who persisted with an idea, a passion, a dream, long after everyone else had given up. Despite all odds they got back up, dusted themselves off and tried again. What ideas are you sitting on, just waiting for a little grit?