Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Run don't walk: Part II

After last week's post You don't get better at running hills by walking them, I had some readers reach out to me with specific, and very good, questions. I decided to address them in this followup post since hopefully it'll help you apply more perseverance in your life as well.

But first, if you missed it, check out the first post here.

1. What is grit?

As I was discussing my thoughts for this followup post with John, he commented that the human struggle has always been one of instant versus delayed gratification. And this is essentially what "grit" comes down to.

Are you able to metaphorically endure the burn as you run up life's hills for the delayed gratification of making it to the top?

According to Angela Duckworth, the foremost researcher in "grit," it involves two qualities:
"(1) The tendency not to abandon tasks from mere changeability. Not seeking something because of novelty. Not 'looking for a change.'  
(2) The tendency not to abandon tasks in the face of obstacles. Perseverance, tenacity, doggedness." 
So grit requires that you understand the big picture goal that you are going for and that you focus on this goal no matter what stands in your way along the way.

Holding on despite the waves

2. Are some people just naturally born with this trait or can you develop grittiness? 

Studies on grit haven't yet proved if this trait can be cultivated or if you're born with it. But I am in the self-development camp and believe you can always grow and stretch yourself. It's about practice. The first time you push yourself will be very uncomfortable, but you must remember that you don't grow unless you're outside of your comfort zone. As this 99U article states:
"Experts tend to operate outside their comfort zone and study themselves failing. This ability to tolerate, and even embrace, uncomfortableness may well be the 'X factor' that underpins outstanding achievement. Self-control, grit, self-analysis... these are not comfortable qualities. But, as renowned performance artist Marina Abramovic... has said: 'Nobody ever changes when they do things they like.'"

3. I am more motivated by rewards than goals. What advice do you have for someone who struggles to get the hard things done first?

First of all, I write about topics that I want to grow and develop in too. So I definitely don't have perseverance or grit all figured out. 
  • Understand the link between how the small step you accomplish now is getting you closer to your end result. To persevere through obstacles, you need to articulate what it is you are striving for, write it out, and tell others.  
  • Connect what you want to do to why you want to do it. Understanding why something is important ties in the emotional aspect, not just the logical side. (See this post for quick ideas on how to daily remind yourself of the why.) We'll never convince ourselves to do what's hard if it's purely factual. You need to fully feel the importance of what you're trying to do. Why is this an important goal in the first place? Or why is it important for you to keep stretching yourself? 
  • Just start. Often it's hard to start doing the hard things because you know how important your end result is to you- whether it's a goal a week from now or five years down the road. Instead of dreading the task you need to complete as step one to your goal, just tackle a piece of it. Once you get going, it will be much easier to continue. 
  • Tell someone what you're trying to accomplish. Oftentimes we can't drum up the necessary motivation for ourselves. But if someone else knows what you are trying to accomplish, they can help hold you accountable and keep you motivated by reminding you of the big picture.

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