Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance is one of the top New York Times bestsellers. Duckworth defines grit as the passion and perseverance to achieve one’s long-term goals. Grit explains why some people fail and others are successful at getting what they want.
When things get painful and tough, people with low grit are the first to give up on their goals and dreams. However, gritty people battle it through and stay focused on their goals regardless of the obstacles and difficulties of life.
Duckworth’s study illustrated that grit may have some benefits such as increased self-control and self-discipline. Another study by Kim and colleagues found that gritty employees experience higher levels of job satisfaction and job performance.
Despite your current grit levels, the good news is that we can learn to identify and increase grit. Let’s discuss some strategies to increase your grit level.
Identify your Grit Baseline
How gritty are you? To find out, complete Duckworth’s Grit Scale. These eight statements have been validated using empirical scholarship and they will help you identify your level of grit. The survey will ask about your ability to overcome challenges and persevere in the long haul.
The higher your score, the grittier you are likely to be. If you have low or moderate levels of grit, this does not mean that you are stuck that way. Grit is not something you are naturally born with. Instead, anyone can learn to become grittier, but it will take personal determination and self-discipline.
Develop Growth-Centered Goals
To cultivate grit, it is important to develop goals that will spark your passion. Set quality goals that will make you proud of yourself. As a student, when I was dealing with a tough neuropsychology class, I told my friend from a youth program that I would be happy with getting a “B” in that class. My friend challenged me and said, “Why get a B, when you can get an A?”
This basic statement made me realize that I was setting goals that were easy to achieve, and not setting goals that focused on my own growth. Interestingly, the statement encouraged me to set growth-centered goals such as increasing the hours of study time and becoming more engaged in the class. Eventually I did earn an “A” in the class.
At work, for instance, you can spark your passion by setting a challenging, yet rewarding goal to complete a course on a new job-related skill that will make you into an asset. You might also consider setting goals to improve your workplace productivity.
When Things Get Rough, Keep Going
An important part of grit is maintaining perseverance and momentum even when experience difficult challenges. Challenges can hit us from all sides. These can include personal challenges such as stress, fear, and burnout. Family challenges such as dealing with a divorce, or caring for an ill family member, can make life difficult. Work challenges can include dealing with conflict with a colleague at work, lack of team communication, or technology issues.
When experiencing difficult situations, one needs to stay focused on one’s goal. This could mean sacrificing one’s leisure time to engage in goal-related tasks, such as dedicating a few hours a week to ensure that the tasks are completed. This could mean reducing the number of hours checking social media, playing games, or watching Netflix, and replacing those hours with goal-related tasks.
Use Failure to your Advantage
What sets gritty people apart from others is how they react to failure. When gritty people fail at something, this failure is seen as an opportunity to improve. From this perspective, one can take good notes on why the failure occurred, and try again with a more strategic approach. By learning from one’s failures, our odds of doing better the next time may increase.
Well-known people such as Thomas Edison, Michael Jordan, Lady Gaga, and Lucille Ball experienced many rejections and failures before they experienced success. Failure did not stop these individuals’ ambitions or passions, but rather it motivated them to keep getting better. For most of us, failure can be disappointing. But if we adjust our perception of failure by using it to our advantage, then we are likely to enjoy the “fruits” of success from multiple failures.
Focus on Improvement Rather than Perfection
Employees with grit avoid being perfect. Gritty people realize that they are human beings with flaws and imperfections. They do not have to have a high IQ score, but rather the ability to focus on self-improvement.
Achieving excellence at work does not mean that we need to become perfectionists. Instead, pursuing excellence is about performing work tasks to the best of our ability. It also includes striving to improve our performance overtime through self-monitoring habits.
One can also request feedback to identify areas of growth. For instance, a gritty employee may ask a colleague or supervisor for feedback on a business report to ensure that the written work is clear, polished, and effective. Being willing to take risks and receive constructive criticism can help employees focus on continuous improvement.
Cultivate a Grit Culture
At work, one can also cultivate a grit culture. You might share Duckworth’s TedTalk to your colleagues and talk about how one can develop grit to improve your team’s performance. Or, start a book club and encourage discussions about grit at work. Managers can reward and encourage grit behavior by celebrating the successes of employees at a restaurant, or by sending personalized gratitude cards to show appreciation for employees’ gritty behavior.
Overall, grit is something we can all develop. With grit, employees are more likely to experience success. Grit can also help us stick to our career-related goals. Ultimately, grit will help us perform consistently and effectively over the course of our careers.
Dr. Leslie Ramos Salazar
Associate & Abdullat Professor of Business Communication and Decision Management