Growth Mindset: Research and Reflections on the Power of Grit

” Grit is 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.” Angela Lee Duckworth

” No matter what your current ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.” – Carol Dweck

What is grit and the effects of it on short-term motivation and the development of a “Growth Mindset”? It means having the ability to separate short-term losses or failure by taking the time to stop what you are doing, reflect on the lesson you learned and experiment with new approaches that might work better to reach the long-term goal. The method used by effective leaders is to stop, reflect on what is working or not, think about a different strategy or tactic to try next, set a new goal, and go for it. If that Plan B doesn’t work be flexible enough to try something else, always committed to the big picture.  This is grit. It’s the “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”

According to Dr. Duckwork “Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina.” (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, and Kelly, 2007. p. 1087-1088) ” Can a leopard change its spots? Can a human change their personality and become gritty” ? Generally personality research has found that personality characteristics are stable over time. ( University of California: Nave, Sherman, Funder, Hampson, and Goldberg, 2010).  But it is important to understand that our behaviors can be influenced by the environment and habits can change over time. We may not be able to change our genetics but we do have the capacity to change our brain and behaviors.  We do have free will and our brain is malleable.  In similar vein, someone may have a genetic predisposition to develop heart disease, but if that person makes the choice and effort to eat healthy, be physically active, and not smoke then the manifestation of heart disease is less likely. For most people becoming more gritty requires a plan, effective effort and practice, feedback, and small-success over a long period of time.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Do you want more grit? Start here:

1) Write out your plan for changing a specific behavior or habit – establish your baseline, set a goal, define a clear goal and set-up an action of activities for reaching the goal.

2) Eliminate obstacles or interferences for change – What are your barriers? Is it no exercise routine, too much watching sports on TV, internet meandering, poor eating and snacking routines? 

3) Keep a Personal Change Journal – Writing down your successes and failures has been shown by research as a powerful tactic for supporting motivation, monitoring your feelings and emotions. Work on solutions.

4) Share the plan – Share your plan with someone who is supportive yet can offer feedback on your progress

5)    Keep track of your successes – Remember the days when you would receive a gold star for exceptional performance in grade school? Give yourself a gold star for every success you have during the day.

6) Never. Never. Never… give up. Success is a marathon…ultramarathon, not a sprint. There will be peaks and valleys. Expect failure, but don’t accept it. Learn from it and keep moving forward. You must remain passionate about your goals.

7) All of this hard work and effort will payoff if you keep at it. Personal change is difficult and takes time. You need to overcome obstacles and embrace them.

References Duckworth, A., Peterson, C., Matthews, M., and Kelly, D.  (2007).  Grit: Perserverance and passion    for long term-goals.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; (92), 1087-1101. Nave, C., Sherman, R., Funder, D., Hampson, S., and Goldberg, L. (2010). On the contextual independence of personality: Teachers’ assessments predict directly observed behavior after four decades.  Social Psychology and Personality Science; (1), 327 – 334.