“To be gritty is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. To be gritty is to hold fast to an interesting and purposeful goal. To be gritty is to invest, day after week after year, in challenging practice. To be gritty is to fall down seven times, and rise eight.” – Angela Duckworth
As discussed in Part 1, being gritty is important in helping us realize our aspirations and become successful in life. The challenge often times has always been about finding out what to pursue or commit to and how to be come successful at it. Drawing on the principles of social behavior change: awareness, understanding, commitment and action, Angela Duckworth shares with us four (4) elements to help us grow grit in ourselves. When we watch athletes exhibit extraordinary skill in their crafts we may wish we had such mastery as well and often we wonder how they got to know they were that good in the sport etc. I can recall growing up in the village I used to enjoy soccer but not that much, running but just to get home in time for lunch and not be late in school among other activities. Maybe I’d be an expert in any of these but I’m not. There are various drivers to these including lack of access to resources needed to identify & nurture such skills which I’ll write about in Part 3. In developing grit in ourselves, Angela Duckworth proposes:
- Interest – We all are accustomed to the common saying that we should find our passions and pursue them. It would be great to find your passion for then you’d be certain on what you can realize in your life. Unfortunately, we are not born with “passion cards” handed to our mothers so that we know which path to follow. It’s a challenge for us to explore our environments, realize our interests in the things we do daily and when we find something we are really interested in, we focus on being good at it. It is therefore important for us to make the best of our exploration phase for it is in this phase that we determine where to invest our time, energy and resources. In this phase, I believe there is the dimension of becoming aware of options. In a recent phone conversation with my sister, we discussed how to nurture my nieces and key for me was to help her expose them to as many activities as possible so that they find something that interests them upon which we can help them grow in that. Limiting their horizons blocks them from identifying something which may their interest. We have to keep in mind that interests change over time and therefore we also have to be open to the fact that at one point we may find something else that makes us happy & fulfilled and be willing to change our trajectory.
- Practice – To be great at anything we need to develop our talent/interest into a skill. Practice – deliberate practice – makes us gain the mastery in whatever it is that we intend to do and therefore we need to commit to practice. Angela Duckworth talks of deliberate practice as the commitment to achieving particular targets e.g., if in running you must know whether you want to improve on your speed or resilience (distance covered) etc. Without a specific target in practice you won’t be certain on whether you are building your skill or not. You might be doing so much but it’s not translating to results ultimately leading to frustration. We have to build our practice muscle and commit to it long term to observe whether we are advancing or stagnating. This goes to physical activities as well as intellectual work. You can’t be an expert data analyst if you never analyze any data. Get to practice, by reading more about the subject, doing actual tests and data analysis work and gaining mastery over time.
- Purpose – the intention to contribute to the well-being of others – as Angela Duckworth describes it is our big picture view of our interests and their place in the larger context of the life we live with others. It is noted that individuals who associate their careers or vocations with a greater purpose in terms of contributing to something larger than themselves are more engaged, fulfilled and productive in their vocations. They are more likely to achieve their goals and aspirations because their vocation is in tune with their being. Linking our interests to a purpose and committing to pursue these through practice is critical in helping us achieve our successes in life.
- Hope – Some people define hope as the expectation that the future is going to be better than today. However, according to Angela Duckworth, he argues that hope that builds grit is the expectation that tomorrow will be better than today because of what you as an individual do to make it better. Without playing your part today to create the future you hope for, there is no chance it will materialize as you wish for it and therefore there is some level of individual responsibility and accountability to hope. She argues that with this kind of hope, we adopt a growth mindset, develop optimistic self-talk and persevere over adversity as we exert ourselves to overcome the hurdles towards the envisioned better future.
I believe that it is possible for us to be the better versions of ourselves if we commit to continuous improvement in our different pursuits. By exploring our interests and investing in skills development through practice we will gain mastery. Applying our skills in tasks we find meaning in, we realize our purpose and achieve the success we hope and wish for. May we master the art of nurturing grit within ourselves as we work towards our goals.