By Dr. Karyn

Hello DK Leadership Community!

What exactly is “grit”? While most of us may think of it as a stubborn determination to get through anything life throws at us, is it so much more than that:

Angela Duckworth, a professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania who has written a book on the subject, defines grit as “the tendency to sustain interest in and effort towards very long-term goals”.

She has even devised a test to determine where you place on the ‘Grit Scale’, and explains just how critical it is as a predictor of success. So how can we build grit in ourselves and others? How can you encourage grit in your teams and with your children? I have found that how we handle failure is an important part of building grit!

TIP #1: Push Yourself & Expect 20-30% Failure

 I found it interesting when I learned that employees at Google are encouraged to set goals, and yet expected to achieve only 70-80% of them. Why? Because their philosophy is that if employees are achieving 100%, their goals are too easy! They want to create a culture that is fast, progressive and risk-taking, in which employees are not afraid to try new things. To create that kind of culture they need to inspire employees to stretch, but also to manage expectations that not all their ambitious goals will be reached. Pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone, striving for excellence and expecting (some) goal-failure is all part of building grit. It’s changing our attitude about goal-setting and failure, to an approach which is more realistic and empowering. Personally, I have found this new mindset very helpful; at our office, we have several exciting large projects on the go, and things are moving quickly! Recently, when something has been missed or doesn’t work, we don’t agonize over it and over-analyze; we say “that’s part of the 20%” and we let it go and refocus on our energy on our priorities. It’s been liberating!

TIP #2: Stop & Take Some Time

When we encounter failure, or we don’t reach a goal that truly matters, that’s when our “grit-muscle” is needed. We are not robots – we are humans! As we set goals, and sometimes don’t achieve them, this failure will often bring out feelings of sadness, frustration, or disappointment – it’s a natural emotional response! So how should we cope? First, don’t ignore those emotions; give yourself some “recovery time” to process them. According to motivational speaker and former sports agent Molly Fletcher, recovering from adversity, both physically and mentally, is the only way to achieve success, and it’s something she strongly encouraged in her former clients, many of whom became the top athletes in their field. Once you have gained perspective on your failure, and learned what you need to from it, then give yourself permission to let it go, hit reset, and start going after the next goal.

TIP #3: Lean In & Have A Growth Mind-Set

So what should we do during the “recovery process? Lean in and have a Growth Mind-Set! Often, our first reaction to failure is to run and turn our back on it. However, moving towards it and asking for feedback is the only way to learn from it and not let it defeat you. Ask yourself – what worked? What did not work and why? Without understand why, “failure” is likely to happen again. Having a Growth Mind-Set is using data (from failure) and really studying it to help you grow! Data is powerful – without knowing why you failed, you’ll simply be guessing, which is not only a waste of time but will teach you nothing! So the next time you think you have failed (at work or home), have the courage to lean in adopt the Growth Mind-Set. Ask others for their feedback (terrifying: yes, powerfully helpful: YES!). If you ask, most people will tell you, and that powerful data will only strengthen your success muscle of grit.

Your Leadership Coach
Dr. Karyn

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