Have you ever witnessed an extraordinary event–an amazing game-winning catch by a receiver, or a fadeaway jumper to clinch the national title? Man, those people are talented! According to Angela Duckworth, yes, they are talented indeed. But what skills they possess have come from years of effort, continuous training and dedication all culminating when it matters most, when all is on the line. We just witnessed the fun part. The performance is where the players get to show off their skills, wowing crowds and winning legions of fans in the process. However, the work was put in at some point: 4 A.M. practices, year after year of weight and endurance training, constant adherence to a demanding diet constructed for performance alone. These examples are only a fraction of what it took to make it to that game-winning shot. We just get to see the show, sometimes ignoring altogether the effort that went into making that amazing performance. This might cause some to ignore the effects of work in light of these talents that seem so natural at first glance. What seems like magic is, in fact, years of practice turned into a skill that allows these high performers to dazzle audiences. In her book Grit, Duckworth outlines the steps necessary for cultivating the quality of grit, allowing seemingly ordinary people to become the very magic they have witnessed.
Passion: The Fuel for Personal Progress
Grit can be defined as the sustained application of effort applied to a long-term goal. The first attribute to develop a grittier personality is finding a deep interest in a hobby, field of study, or vocation. This is the spark that ignites the idea that something might just come from applying a bit of effort to something important. Realizing one’s passion does not have to be instantaneous. In fact, most of the time there is no “aha” moment, where angels sing and announce to you that you were meant to be a doctor. Most often, coming to know one’s passion is a process, often taking years of dabbling in a given area before realizing it’s your calling. For example, my journey with writing started about 4 years ago. I wrote furiously in two-month increments, and then stop altogether. It was only recently that I realized that writing was something I wanted to pursue actively. It takes a bit of time to realize your passions. A good place to start is a hobby or interest that you periodically take up and step back from. Who knows, one of these activities could be what you have been looking for!
Practice Sometimes Sucks But DO IT!
To develop a gritty personality after you have found your interest, it is necessary to improve upon the skills required for that particular field. It is important to spend some time in what Duckworth calls “deliberate practice,” or practicing with the intention of meaningful improvement. Every single day. There are four steps to engaging in deliberate practice. First, set a goal, a target to be hit within given parameters. Second, while practicing your trade, give your undivided attention to the task at hand, not allowing anything other that the activity you are doing to consume your thoughts. Then, seek feedback. This serves as the yardstick for determining whether or not you are making progress from your efforts. The final step is to do it all over again. In my opinion, one of the major personality traits that makes someone successful in anything is their ability to stick to what they love doing–for a very long time! For real, your goals may take years to realize–better get comfortable!
Experience The Calling
When you feel what you do matters to someone or something greater than yourself, it becomes easier to weather the storm of passing years in service to your goal. People who have a higher calling are happier, period. They derive more pleasure from their activities and are more likely to feel that what they do matters. In Grit, there is an example of two bricklayers with differing attitudes about their trade while building a church. The first bricklayer only views his vocation as a job, something to do until a better opportunity comes along. However, the second bricklayer views his work as a meaningful task, he gets to build the house of God! If you can link your passions to a greater cause the chances are far higher that you will actually reach your desired outcome.
Growth Minded People Learn
The last element of a gritty personality is the ability to develop a growth mindset. The ethos of this way of learning is that people are capable of learning new skills at any point in their lives. This is essentially being willing to be malleable, accepting feedback and making changes to your outlook and actions based on the information. Sometimes I write an article, leave it sit overnight, and when I return to it the next day I cannot stand that piece of crap that somehow came from my head. I relish pushing the delete button! Just as with writing, your path will require adjustments, and more importantly, the ability to know when those changes of course need to be made. The fact is we can learn new information and skills, and it is a worthy endeavor to engage in such activity! If you want to learn more about developing a growth mindset, Carol Dweck quite literally wrote the book on it! The book is called– surprise, surprise, Mindset.
Good News: You Can Do it Too!
Using the principles of Grit, you can discover what is truly interesting to you, and develop the necessary skills allowing you to create and engage in meaningful, fulfilling activities. This is good news! You can learn your way into whatever it is you want to become by embracing the processes outlined in this book. I challenge you to commit to something beneficial to your development. Start small. Walk half a mile today, and do the same tomorrow! Eventually, the walk will become a run, and you will be well on your way to developing the person you want to become. Don’t wait, get started! If you want to like where you end up, the journey must start somewhere. There’s nothing magic about becoming who you want to be.