True Grit: How to Press on Towards Your Goals

Do you have grit? Not the sandy stuff that follows you home from the beach. Grit is the character trait that allows someone to strive towards their goal no matter the circumstances.

According to University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth, grit is more important than natural talent when it comes to predicting a person’s success. It’s more important than intelligence. Successful people aren’t any more brilliant than the rest of us. They’ve just got a big supply of that secret sauce that never gives up until the job is done.

Ms. Duckworth, that’s truly fascinating. But what about those of us who lack in the grit department?Silhouette of free-climber at sunset

What if you don’t have grit?

If you’ve started and stopped more projects than you care to admit. If you find that your great plans go out the window as soon as you hit a roadblock. If you feel like you don’t have what it takes to break through, fear not. There are three simple things you can do to develop your determination muscles.

Get you a gritty win. How does an out-of-shape couch surfer win the Chicago Marathon? The answer: he doesn’t. Unless he first gets off the couch, trades his potato chips for apple slices, and walks out the front door. First he walks. Then he jogs. A half mile turns to a mile. A mile stretches to two miles. One win stands on top of another win, bringing with it courage, self-reliance and confidence.

Are you struggling to write your first book? Start with a 10-page report. You’ll have to fight through many of the same challenges you’ll face in writing a full manuscript. Give yourself a short deadline. Vow that you won’t quit no matter what comes up.  And give your best friend permission to thump you in the forehead if you don’t finish on time. Thump. Thump. Thump.

Never underestimate the value of small wins. It’s better to start small and see progress than start big and go bust. Best of all, with each gritty win you’ll be building your ability to power through when the going gets tough.

Piggyback on someone else’s grit. If you steal a page from someone’s homework you’d be a cheat. If you steal a page from someone’s checkbook you’d be a thief. If you steal a page from someone’s life you’d be a genius. If your personal determination is running low look at people who seem to be drowning in it. Walt Disney, Richard Branson and Stephen King come to mind. But you don’t have to limit yourself to famous people.

Look to that aunt who started a successful bakery in her kitchen. Reach out to that college buddy who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Find out how they conquered the voices that told them to quit. Figure out what kept them going. Apply their experiences to your own life.

Fake it until you make it. In a 2013 Ted Talk, Duckworth described grit as “…passion and perseverance for very long term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

If Duckworth’s definition of grit makes you want to run for the hills, don’t tie up your laces just yet.

Commit to seeking out gritty wins. With each win you’ll learn more about you. How you work. What challenges give you hives. What areas bring out your best.

Commit yourself also to learning from the lives of other grittier souls. There is much truth to the saying, “A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether.”

There’s one more solution for building grit. You’ve got to fake grit until you have grit. Keep telling yourself that you have everything you need to accomplish your goals. You’ve got grit. You’ve got brainpower. You’ve got capital. You’ve got courage. One day you’ll look up and these things will be your reality.

“Pathfinders: Do you have grit? What do you think are the keys to success? Leave a comment below.”

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