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How to Develop Grit

Topics: Career Advice

Developing grit is crucial for professional success. It gives you perseverance, determination, resilience and so much more.

Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, is an expert on grit. She literally wrote the book on it. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance outlines why this trait is so important (it matters even more than intelligence) and strategies for developing it.

Here are some key ways to work on increasing your grittiness and your professional success.

Understand the value of Grit

Talent is one thing. Applying your gifts and abilities is quite another. At the end of the day, your intelligence and even your background (education, training, job experience, etc,) will only take you so far. It’s what you do with those skills that matters.

It helps to fully understand and appreciate the value and importance of grit if you’re going to invest time and energy into cultivating it. Perhaps the idea is best understood by considering the alternative.

Let’s say you love your job in tech, and you have all the background and experience necessary to do your job well. Does that mean that you won’t face any obstacles? Of course not. You’ll still have to deal with professional setbacks and difficulties such as challenging coworkers and bosses, failed attempts to solve problems or develop new technologies, projects that are slow to launch and so on.

So, think about how you’d face these challenges if you lacked grit. You’d feel frustrated at every turn. You’d be angry and feel discouraged. Your stress level would be high and that would eventually begin to take a toll. Maybe you’d even consider throwing in the towel. If, however, you have grit — the passion to persevere through obstacles, you’d expect these challenges and work to conquer them with a positive and confident attitude.

It’s easy to see why this trait is so valuable.

Once you have this understanding, once you really appreciate the value and purpose of grit, you may find you naturally begin to hone the skill. It helps to know why it’s important to cultivate a certain habit when working toward change.

Redefine what it means to practice

Gritty folks don’t see failed attempts as defeats. They understand that all the ups and downs, all the drafts and redos, are simply just a part of the learning process.

“When you look at people practicing, you find they make tons and tons of mistakes,” Duckworth told Time. “It’s by making those mistakes that you get better. Making mistakes and failing are normal—in fact, they’re necessary.”

Work on developing this kind of understanding when it comes to your own profession. Practice and learn as you go. Don’t view setbacks in a negative way. Instead, understand how they’re helping you to grow and do better the next time.

“I never allow myself to become discouraged under any circumstances,” Thomas Edison said in a 1921 interview by B.C. Forbes for American Magazine. “I recall that after we had conducted thousands of experiments on a certain project without solving the problem, one of my associates, after we had conducted the crowning experiment and it had proved a failure, expressed discouragement and disgust over our having failed ‘to find out anything.’ I cheerily assured him that we had learned something. For we had learned for a certainty that the thing couldn’t be done that way, and that we would have to try some other way. We sometimes learn a lot from our failures if we have put into the effort the best thought and work we are capable of.”

Be more optimistic

Optimism could give your career a real boost, for a lot of different reasons. Cultivating a more positive perspective helps to improve your professional reputation and your general outlook. It could also help you to become a little grittier. Optimism helps you to see the bright side of things which encourages you to persist and keep trying when you’re up against difficulties. Professionals with grit see challenges as opportunities and they persist with a positive attitude. Gritty people work hard; optimism makes that a lot easier to do, and a lot more fun too.

Grit isn’t just about hard work. It’s also about having the right attitude. If you’d like to find out how gritty you are, try taking the 10-question Grit Scale assessment designed by Duckworth. It should help you hone in on your own strength and weaknesses when it comes to the skill so that you can make improvements more easily.

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