The previous Building Resilience blog was all about grit (click here). Grit helps children not to give up too quickly when encountering difficulty. Adults call on grit to sustain long-term relationships, pursue tertiary studies and stay task focussed in their work career. In this way, grit is an important component of resilience.

I received lots of comment from readers, most wanting to find out more about grit or asking if it can be developed. So here we go:

Grit is not a new topic. Some years ago, scientists carried out what was to become a classic study with kids to understand the role of delaying gratification, and then to use it to predict future success later on in life. They found the that four-year old children who were able to delay gratification by not immediately eating a marshmallow in order to get two marshmallows after a 15 minute wait, were significantly more successful later on in life. They found delaying gratification was an even a better predictor of success than intelligence!

Here is a YouTube video on a replication of the study: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amsqeYOk–w

On a personal note, I had to smile when listening to the video. It brought back a memory of when I must have still been in Junior School, and hoarded my Easter Bunny chocolate in the ‘fridge to only eat after my brothers and sister had eaten theirs – and it was highly unlikely that I shared with them!

Praise also has an impact in developing grit.  Different types of praise can either help children develop the drive to persist in the face of difficulty, or increases the chances they will tend to give up (click here). This impact of the types of praise on the development of grit also applies to adults (click here).

That brings us to the important question of whether can you intentionally improve your own level of grit?

The happy answer is “yes”, and here are some suggestions:

  • Spend time with people who have grit. They will inspire you by what they have achieved in their lives by not giving up.
  • Tell people about your goals. Tell them how great you will feel when you have achieved them and what they will do for you.
  • Change your thinking. Catch negative thinking like: “I can’t do this” or “This is too hard”. Thoughts like that often cause people to give up. So challenge defeatist thoughts, replacing them, for example, with: “I have achieved difficult goals before, so these will be easier” or “I got through tough times much worse than this before, so I can do this”.
  • Visualise having succeeded. Use your passion for your goals to keep you motivated and not lose heart.  So picture yourself having achieved your goal with all the feelings of success: obtaining your degree, signing your first book or standing on the winner’s podium.
  • Stay optimistic. Review your success thus far. Explain setbacks and mistakes to yourself by being optimistic, for example by saying “Nothing worthwhile ever comes easily”, or “This is only a temporary mishap and is a great opportunity for me to rededicate myself to achieving my goals”.
  • View failure as feedback only. Failure only becomes so when you give up. So see mistakes and disappointments as opportunities to do things differently and be successful next time.
  • Put your attention on achieving your next small goal. While it’s important to keep the overall goal in mind, focus your immediate attention and actions on the next milestone. Some people find keeping a log or diary of the progress they are making to be useful.
  • Don’t give up. Giving up ensures that you won’t achieve your goals. Rather try to take a few small steps to achieve your results. That will give you the energy needed to stay the course, while also building your competence and confidence.

Finally, a poem about grit, perseverance and resilience:

DON’T QUIT!

(Author unknown)

When things go wrong as they sometimes will
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh
When care is pressing you down a bit
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer, with its twists and turns
As everyone of us sometimes learns
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow
You may succeed with another blow.

Success is failure turned inside out
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt
And you never can tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

 

Reference:

Duckworth, A.L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087-1101