Life presents a number of opportunities and challenges, but what is it that leads to success rather than failure? In a study by Angela Lee Duckworth at the University of Pennsylvania, a number of people who considered success important were evaluated to determine the critical factors leading to success. Over time, she concluded that the majority of successful people all share one critical thing—grit.
Grit is that “extra something” that separates the most successful people from the rest. It’s the passion, perseverance, and stamina that we must channel in order to stick with our dreams until they become a reality.
Developing grit is all about habitually doing the things that no one else is willing to do. There are quite a few requirements for having grit, and if we aren’t doing these on a regular basis, we should be.
Make mistakes, look like an idiot, and try again—without even flinching. A recent study at the College of William and Mary, in which over 800 entrepreneurs were interviewed, found that the most successful among them tend to have two critical things in common: 1) they’re terrible at imagining failure, and 2) they tend not to care what other people think of them. In other words, the most successful entrepreneurs put no time or energy into stressing about their failures; rather, they see failure as a small and necessary step in the process of reaching their goals. “Failing forward” leads to success and excellence.
Fight when you already feel defeated. We have two choices when things begin to get tough: we can either overcome an obstacle, and grow in the process, or we can let that obstacle beat us. Humans are creatures of habit: if we quit when things get tough, it gets that much easier to quit the next time. On the other hand, if we force ourselves to push through, the grit begins to grow in us.
Make the calls you’re afraid to make. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do because we know they’re for the best in the long-run. Fighting for a marriage even when everyone says we should end it; telling a child we love them while letting them spend the night in jail after making a bad decision; saying goodbye to a loved one who has made it clear they don’t want to be left on artificial life support are all examples. Instead of allowing the looming challenge to paralyze us, however, we must challenge ourselves to get started right away. Every moment spent dreading the task subtracts time and energy from actually getting it done.
Keep your emotions in check. Negative emotions will challenge one’s grit every step of the way. While it’s impossible not to feel emotions, it’s completely under our power to manage them effectively and to keep ourselves in a position of control. When we let our emotions overtake our ability to think clearly, it’s easy to lose our resolve. A bad mood can make us lash out or stray from our chosen direction just as easily as a good mood can make us overconfident and impulsive.
Trust your gut. There’s a fine line between trusting one’s gut and being impulsive. Trusting one’s gut is a matter of looking at decisions from every possible angle and, when the facts don’t present a clear alternative, believing in our ability to choose by going with what looks and feels right.
Give more than you get in return. There’s a famous Stanford experiment in which an administrator leaves a child in a room with a marshmallow for 15 minutes, telling the child that she’s welcome to eat the marshmallow, but if she can wait until the experimenter gets back without eating it, she will get a second marshmallow. The children that were able to wait until the experimenter returned experienced better outcomes in life, including higher SAT scores, greater career success, and even lower body mass indexes; the point being that patience and delay of gratification are essential to success. People with grit know that real results only materialize when they put in the time and forego instant gratification.
Lead when no one else follows. It’s easy to set a direction and believe in ourselves when we have support, but the true test of grit is how well we maintain our resolve when nobody else believes in what we’re doing. People with grit believe in themselves no matter what, and they stay the course until they win people over to their way of thinking.
Meet deadlines that are unreasonable and deliver results that exceed expectations. Successful people find a way to say “yes” and still honor their existing commitments. They know the best way to stand out from everyone else is to outwork them. For this reason, they have a tendency to over-deliver, even when they over-promise.
Focus on the details even when it makes your mind numb. Nothing tests your grit like mind-numbing details, especially when you’re tired. The more people with grit are challenged, the more they dig in and welcome that challenge, and numbers and details are no exception to this.
Be kind to people who have been rude to you. When people treat us poorly, it’s tempting to stoop to their level and return the favor. While people with grit don’t allow others to walk all over them, that doesn’t mean they’re rude to them, either. Instead, they treat rude and cruel people with the same kindness they extend to anyone else, because they won’t allow another person’s negativity to bring them down.
Be accountable for your actions, no matter what. People are far more likely to remember how we dealt with a problem than they are how we created it in the first place. Holding ourselves accountable, even when making excuses is an option, shows that we care about results more than our images or egos.
Grit is as rare as it is important. The good news is any of us can get grittier with a little extra focus and effort. If you are interested in working on ways to increase your “grittiness,” consider talking to a counselor at The Cabin. We consider it our privilege to walk beside you as you focus on ways to enhance your life. For an appointment call, 317.873.8140.