Every person on this planet is looking for two things--happiness and success. But as much as we might wish it, the desire to achieve goals and find joy isn't enough to manifest these things in our lives.
Forget desire. Forget inspiration. What you really need is dedication. In order to achieve your dreams, you must have grit.
Perseverance Over Platitudes
Grit isn't just an empty platitude thrown around by self-styled self-help gurus. The power of dedication and perseverance is actually backed up by scientific research. In fact, University of Pennsylvania psychologist and MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant winner Angela Duckworth believes grit gives a better indication of a child's possible future success and happiness than even his or her IQ score -- and her research backs it up.
Grit comes down to two things: passion and perseverance for long-term goals. Duckworth's study of West Point cadets found that these two attributes were the strongest predictors of a candidate's future success--well beyond reaction times, physical ability, and overall knowledge.
This is an insight that has shaped my interactions with my own kids. In an effort to ensure they live happy, successful lives, I try to instill in them that dedication and focus they need to achieve their goals--motivating, not pushing.
After all, if you rely on outside motivation (i.e., pushing) to convince you to take some action, you won't know whether it's the right thing to do. Self-awareness is key to success, and self-awareness plus grit is the ultimate winning combination. Grit is that little speck of sand inside the oyster that turns into a pearl.
How to Grow Your Grit
It's great to know the value of grit, but how do we acquire it? Developing this passion and perseverance comes down to just three simple mantras:
1. "I don't wait to 'find' my passions; I cultivate them."
If grit is equal parts passion and perseverance, then finding one's passion would seem to be the grit seeker's job No. 1. Not so, say psychologists from Stanford University and Yale-NUS College in Singapore. In a recent study, they found that those study participants who considered their passions "fixed" and just waiting to be discovered were likely to give up on a new interest when it became too challenging to master easily.
Instead of hoping that your passion will simply reveal itself eventually, adopt what the study's authors call a "growth mindset." Experiment with a variety of activities--and expect slow going at first. Only by putting in active effort will you discover whether a passing fancy could become an all-consuming love.
2. "I don't have a job. I have a calling."
Grit isn't just about being a hard worker. It's about digging in and finding meaning in what you do--especially as it relates to helping others. The conviction that our work matters can help build habits, encourage forward momentum, and provide the motivation necessary to overcome obstacles.
With a focus on the meaning behind our work, we no longer just have a job. We have a calling. If you asked me what I'm doing at this exact moment, I could say, "I'm writing an article," "I'm educating others," or "I'm instilling in others a drive to pursue their goals." The third extends beyond the superficial and into the realm of true conviction.
Keep in mind that purpose won't appear overnight. You need to pursue and create your purpose. To do this, try remembering why you work. Are you passionate about what your company accomplishes? Is your work helping to support people you care about? Take time to reflect and consider how your work is contributing to something bigger than yourself.
3. "I wield hope as a powerful weapon."
People with grit have a hope that's based on drive and making things happen rather than mere luck. "Grit depends on a different kind of hope," Duckworth explains in her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. "It rests on the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future. I have a feeling tomorrow will be better is different from I resolve to make tomorrow better."
Part of working toward a long-term goal is understanding that speed bumps, obstacles, and failures are inevitable parts of the journey. By embracing these as specific learning opportunities that strengthen our resolve and our ability to succeed as we continue forward, it allows us to achieve even greater success. Hope can turn setbacks into stepping-stones that help us reach greater heights. Learning to bounce back from failure can help you develop this unique type of hope.
Without the effort to back it up, talent is nothing more than wasted ability. Focus first on cultivating the determination, perseverance, and passion that you need to make your journey successful, then just start moving. Your dreams will be in sight faster than you might believe.