The Key to Developing more GRIT

Jann Freed Living, Sage-ing Comments

The last two blog posts have been about how to become more resilient.  My thinking has been stimulated by reading the book GRIT:  Why Passion and Resilience are the Secrets to Success by Angela Duckworth.  This post is my opinion on what is the key to developing more grit.  If you are in a position to influence the lives of others (parent, grandparent, teacher, pastor, coach, boss), you might find this information helpful.

The first two posts described grit, why it was important, and the four components critical for developing grit:

  1.  Interest:  Develop an interest.
  2. Practice:  Practice, practice, and practice some more.  (Think Olympic athletes and their focus and determination)
  3. Purpose:  “The intention to contribute to the well-being of others.”
  4. Hope:  The expectation that our efforts can improve our future.

What I found intriguing is the definition of purpose, how important it is for developing grit, and how purpose becomes even more significant as we gain in life experience (in later years of life).  According to Duckworth, “At its core, the idea of purpose if the idea that what we do matters to people other than ourselves.”

In sage-ing work (or positive aging), we call this legacy work or doing work that will hopefully outlive ourselves.  This definition of purpose is also consistent with Simon Sinek’s explanation of why.  If you remember from my blog post, Sinek suggests using this sentence stem to draft your why statement:

TO _________________so that ______________.  The first blank is the contribution you make to the lives of others.  The second blank represents the impact of your contribution.

Purpose is so powerful gritty people often view what they do as a “calling and vocation” rather than a job or a career.  This also reinforces the work of Studs Terkel who concluded, “All of us are looking for daily meaning as well as daily bread … for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”

Duckworth continues to add, “Whatever you do–whether you’re a janitor or the CEO–you can continually look at what you do and ask how it connects to other people, how it connects to the bigger picture, how it can be an expression of your deepest values.”

When I was involved in research for my books on continuous improvement in higher education, I learned a phrase that informed my leadership work.  The phrase was “line of sight.”  The focus was on how every person in the organization should have a “line of sight” for how what they are doing is tied to the mission of the organization.  When people have this connection, their work is more meaningful and purposeful.  They understand the value of their positions.

It is never too early and never too late to find and cultivate a sense of purpose.  Duckworth has three recommendations for doing so:

  1. Realize how the work you are already doing can make a positive contribution to society.
  2. Think about how you can change your current work to enhance its connection to your core values.
  3. Find a role model whom you find inspirational.

It is this last recommendation that I often suggest to people as they develop a life plan for the next phase of life.  I say it this way:  Who is living a life that looks appealing to you?  Why is it appealing?  How did they make this happen?

A story I often share came out of a workshop I conducted for women accountants several years ago.  Since I weave sage-ing concepts into my leadership workshops, I was talking about legacy work and how leaders are leaving their legacy daily (either in good ways or bad).  I defined how a sage is wise because s/he learns from life experience, and then passes this wisdom onto others such as through mentoring, teaching, and befriending others.

A young accountant spoke up and said her grandmother was a sage and she admired how the was living her life.  She asked her grandmother where she learned to live like this and the response was something such as, “I look for role models–usually a person who is at least 10 years older than me and the person can change depending on what I am seeking at the time.  I may know these role models or I may admire them from afar.  But I observe the decisions they make and use them as a guide to where I want to go.”

What is your purpose?

Who are your role models?  If you don’t have any, start looking.

What is your interest for which you are willing to practice on purpose that gives you hope?  

How gritty are you?  

Would you benefit from developing more grit?

If so, what is holding you back?