Clients come to coaching because they are ready to make some sort of change or improvement in their life. They’ve come to a place where the status quo is no longer acceptable. It may be due to health concerns, a change in circumstances or something else, but whatever the motivation, some type of needed change is indicated. Sometimes they feel ready to change but aren’t sure how to proceed. They may have started down the path only to find themselves stuck or sidetracked, maybe more than once. Change – real change that becomes a part of one’s life – usually is not met by a quick fix. It’s a process. Sometimes changes are made only to be met with backslides, or a return to old habits or patterns.
Change can be challenging and tricky, and almost invariably at some point we are going to come up against a wall. And, unfortunately, that is often where a return to old habits can begin to take root. Change is uncomfortable and going back to one’s comfort zone often seems the easier, softer way. That’s where grit comes in.
Grit has of late become a catchphrase of sorts being tossed around in some circles. But what is it and why is it important in the quest for change?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines grit in behavior as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.” Another definition is, “The ability to work hard and respond resiliently to failure and adversity; the inner quality that enables individuals to work hard and stick to their long-term passions and goals.”
University of Pennsylvania psychologist and researcher Angela Lee Duckworth, who has conducted studies on the subject, defines it as “passion and perseverance in the pursuit of long term goals,” and believes it to be a (maybe the) central predictor of long-term success. You could also call it mental toughness.
If “being gritty” predicts achievement, how do you know if you have it? And how can you get it if you don’t?
There isn’t always consensus about exactly what constitutes grit, but certain character traits appear to be key:
- Having a clear and focused goal, along with the ability to avoid distractions and stay focused;
- A strong motivation, a will to persist;
- Self-control – the ability to delay short-term gratification, in favor of the long term;
- An optimistic, positive outlook – the ability to meet challenges with confidence in one’s own abilities and the belief that things will work out;
- A growth mindset, i.e., the ability to look at challenges and setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow, rather than as “failures.”
We all recognize the importance of determined and persistent effort in the pursuit of a goal. What appears to differentiate grit seems to be a capacity to maintain one’s stamina over a long period of time despite the inevitable setbacks and adversities inherent in long-term goal achievement. Without the necessary grit – a quality which seems to come from deep within – even the most talented or intelligent among us can get discouraged and thrown off track. As Angela Duckworth says, “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. It’s living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”