Have you ever wondered why some folks are wildly successful at whatever they set their sights on?
Whether it be growing a business, losing weight, running a half marathon, or raising well-behaved, happy kids—some folks succeed consistently. When looking at those who have succeeded at reaching their dreams and aspirations, especially when you are struggling to do so, you may wonder what they have that you don’t.
Are they of high intelligence, incredibly talented, or just plain lucky? Do they have the support of mentors, or the finances to make their efforts easier and pay for help? Well, it could be any of those factors or a combination of several.
However, research shows us that when you look at highly successful individuals across many sectors—business, athletics, entertainment, or in the classroom—the most successful amongst them share a common trait.
It’s called “grit” or what some call mental toughness.
Angela Duckworth, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, found that grit was the one trait that stood out in the most successful individuals. Her research shows that grit plays a more significant role than anything else for achieving your health, business, and life goals. More so than intelligence, talent, or even outside support.
Not to say those things aren’t necessary. But when it comes to goal attainment, when faced with disruption, grit is the quality that will separate those who continue to be successful with those who fail.
When we are working toward achieving our dreams, it’s relatively straightforward when all things are going smoothly. However, when life throws us a curveball, it is easy to get off track. And let’s face it; disruptions and distractions happen all the time!
Whether it is a loved one’s illness that suddenly requires all your attention, running out of money to fund a project, or a world pandemic, life happens!
It is challenging to keep going when struggling to stay focused consumed with worries. Or you cannot find enough time to devote to your goals. Or worse, your efforts fail, and you are not sure why. That’s when most folks give up.
Those with grit continue on. Grit is about stamina and consistency. It is the mental toughness to stick with daily actions, which leads to achieving your most meaningful goals. Day in and day out, despite what is going on around you.
When you have grit, your pace may slow, you may even have days on end when you aren’t making progress, but you don’t give up!
Mental toughness is not a trait you either have or don’t. It is like a muscle that can be grown and developed through consistent use. Building your grit muscle leads to more success with even the most challenging goals. More importantly, it gives you the tool necessary to stay the course even when you are tired, other endeavors divert your attention, or your world turns upside down.
Are you ready to grow your grit muscle? Want to develop the mental toughness that will increase your success in all areas of your life?
Although there is not a ton of research showing how to do so, Dr. Duckworth’s research points to one interesting fact—those who are the “grittiest” amongst us, also have a growth mindset.
With a growth mindset, you believe you are in charge of your destiny—never a victim of circumstance. You hold fast to the thinking that your success depends on hard work, continually learning new skills, and continuously seeking new knowledge. In other words, challenges that arise in your path are opportunities to learn and grow, not stop signs.
If you would like to develop your growth mindset and strengthen your grit muscle, here are a few suggestions:
Shift your mindset from fixed to growth. Reframe the voice in your head when you hear yourself saying things such as “this is just too hard” or “I don’t have what it takes.” Instead, tell yourself, “Yes, this is challenging, but I can learn new ways to get it done.”
Get crystal clear on what success looks like for you, and why it is important. Continually remind yourself that despite challenges along the way, you can reach your goals as long as they are meaningful and purposeful.
Break your objectives down into small, manageable pieces. Work on one piece at a time and build on that success. Grit comes down to your habits. It’s about doing what you know you’re supposed to do on a more consistent basis and dedication to the daily practice of sticking to a schedule.
Look at setbacks as opportunities to learn rather than failures. If your action plan didn’t go as hoped, don’t beat yourself up. Ask yourself why not and shift your behavior when you try again.
Pivot and readjust goals and strategies as circumstances demand. If the situation has changed, but your desire to accomplish your goals haven’t, it is time to revise your plan.
One last thought—although I could not find the research to back me up, I believe that those who stick to an exercise regime—one that is both safe but challenging—develop grit. As your fitness and strengths grow, so will your mental toughness. That push to complete the last ten minutes of that exhausting spin class or lift that final weight when your muscles are burning—that toughness will translate to other areas in your life as well. Just keep reminding yourself, both in the gym and out of the gym, you can do this!
And when you find yourself getting off track, or thinking about giving up on your dreams and goals, remember—you have the grit and mental toughness it takes to stay the course. Even if that course gets bumpy, or you need to pivot in a different direction altogether.