7 simple ways you can develop grit

Finding the perseverance, passion and pluck to go from ordinary to extraordinary

Do you want to do something meaningful and make a significant difference with your life? If the answer is no then you can stop reading now.

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If yes then whatever you want to do, you are going to need grit. You don’t need me to tell you that life can be incredibly tough and challenging at times. (For more on that see here).

The difference between those who find a way to not just survive, but actually go on to thrive and flourish has to do with grit. We have previously looked at what grit is and the need to have more grit.

We’ve also attempted to explain the difference grit can make. That’s all well and good. But how do you actually develop girt?

Here are 7 simple ways that the research in psychology says leads to grit. They are simple, but they are not simplistic :

1. Ask yourself, ‘What endlessly fascinates me?’
If you could think of one thing you could keep on doing and never get bored with what would that be? If you are struggling to come up with anything, maybe go back to your teenage years and think about what was a hobby or interest that fascinated you. We talked about this with the concept of flow and asked the question,“Do you ever get involved in something so deeply that nothing else seems to matter and you lose track of time?” When you are in flow there are 7 specific conditions you experience (see here). Passion begins with intrinsically enjoying what you do.

For me when I look back I have always been endlessly fascinated by people, understanding them and getting to know what makes them tick. That has progressed into my chosen field of psychiatry, which is all about understanding people in as full a way as a possible -body, mind and spirit. It’s also grown into the podcasting opportunities that I have had in interviewing such a variety of people. I can also see a connection with my faith as part of a never-ending life journey in getting to know God better through Biblical scripture and life experiences. I’ve summarised it for myself by saying I am endlessly fascinated by the 3Rs – reading, reflecting and relating. That’s me, but what about you? You can’t develop grit if you don’t have something that endlessly fascinates you. So what endlessly fascinates you?

2. Can you view frustrations as a necessary part of the process?
Nobody likes frustrations. We all get upset when setbacks and unexpected problems arise. But one form of perseverance is the daily discipline of seeking to do things better than we did the day before.  And to do that means making lots of mistakes. The person with grit is able to pick themselves up again with no self-reproach and  will simply just try again. ( 9 Ways To Look At Your Failures With The Eyes Of Faith).

“When you look at people practicing, you find they make tons and tons of mistakes,” says psychologist Angela Duckworth. “It’s by making those mistakes that you get better. Making mistakes and failing are normal—in fact, they’re necessary.” By reframing how you view mistakes, Duckworth says you can increase your grittiness. “Negative feelings are typical of learning, and you shouldn’t feel like you’re stupid when you’re frustrated doing something,” she says. “You might say to yourself, ‘I can’t do this,’ but you should say, ‘That’s great.’ That means you really have the potential to learn something there.” Its the difference between  a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. (See Never Or Not Yet?)

3. Can you find a greater purpose in what you are doing?
By purpose we mean the intention to contribute to the well being of others. Are you able to find a big enough why to what you are doing? The bigger and more meaningful that purpose then the more reasons you can then find for persevering on in spite of setbacks. (See Why The Best Way To Start This Year Is With The Question Why)

4. Do you have hope that you can change and grow?
We’ve talked about how important hope is to even life itself. When attempting a task and failing it is critical to adopt a growth mindset that sees the setback as a stepping stone to future achievement.

With those four in place here are practical suggestions from Thaler and Koval as to what develops grit:

5. Become an over-preparer.
One of the major findings from all the research on grit is that talent is over-rated. The two equations for developing ultimate success in any area of life are:

Talent x Effort = Skill
Skill x Effort = achievement.

In effect what the psychological research shows is that talent is only the first step. If you are hungry enough and willing to go the extra mile then the likelihood of you achieving is greater than someone who is naturally talented. Of course I am not saying something extreme such as if you are not good at football and you try very hard then you can eventually become a premiership football player! It is the combination of loving and being fascinated by something with some raw talent that is then multiplied by effort many times over.

6. Step off the edge.
That is not an excuse to do something that puts your life in danger. Rather its the realisation that conditions will never be perfect before I step out. It is the willingness to have the courage to do something maybe for the first time. (Also see 5 Simple Steps To Finding Courage To Make A Tough Call)

7 Go the extra 30 minutes.
Here is how Thaler and Koval put it. “You’d be surprised at the edge you can develop by applying yourself for an extra half hour on something – a goal, a skill, a job. Pick the time of day when you are most productive (early morning, after a jog, or in the quiet of a Sunday evening) and instead of watching a sitcom, devote yourself to whatever ‘it’ might be. A half hour each day adds up to 180 hours of extra practice a year!”

What do you need to develop more grit in your life?

The difference grit can make to you

Why do some people have the ability to persevere and reach their goals, while others flounder and just give up at the first hurdle? Or why is it that success in school so often correlates poorly with success and achievement in the world of work?

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Popular opinion tends to say that such people who go on to achieve are just amazingly talented or even just ‘lucky’.

We tend to assume that people succeed in life because of their natural giftedness or talent, their social intelligence or qualifications. But it is no way near as straight forward as that. I can think of a number of people who are talented and can do well academically in school, but then when the challenges in life became greater or more varied have struggled enormously. I have to confess that I too am one of those people.

It would be more accurate to talk about those who do achieve as having ‘grit’. Here are some examples:

How can I find hope in my darkest days?

Overcoming faithless fearful dread

Hope is a complex word. And yet it is so vital to human existence. As someone once said:

“Human beings can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only for one second without hope.”

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We’ve previously looked at hope from a psychological and psychiatric perspective. But hope is so central to human existence that any understanding is incomplete without reference to our spiritual identity. Why? Because where else can we ultimately find hope in our darkest days?

In the world of Biblical theology, hope also refers to a confident expectation about the future. Here is how the 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon articulated hope:

“Don’t you know that day dawns after night, showers displace drought, and spring and summer follow winter? Then have hope! Hope forever, for God will not fail you!”

As the day follows night and as the seasons change, this is a reminder that whatever our current situation, good or bad, challenging or refreshing, it is only for a period of time. The difficulty comes when we feel we are at the bottom of the mountain looking up. Are we going to be there forever? Maybe we are in situations with no clear outcome or we feel fatigued and at the end of our resources. It feels hopeless and we feel exhausted, there is nothing else to give. For such times, George Matheson says:

“Waiting with hope is very difficult, but true patience is expressed when we must even wait for hope. I will have reached the point of greatest strength once I have learned to wait for hope.”

So often in my life I have found myself waking up with a dark cloud (I still do sometimes) – a sense of no hope about life and my situation. Maybe you have too. Its not as if there is something necessarily disastrously wrong. It’s just a sense of “faithless fearful dread” as Baroness Caroline Cox puts it. I have to remind myself that I need to learn to wait for hope to come. That is what builds grit and resilience. It comes through silence and solitude and eventually leads to spiritual maturity.

Biblical hope is way beyond wishful thinking that everything will just turn out fine or the way I want life to be. It is also more than believing a better future is possible and having the power to make it happen. Vaclav Havel writes:

Do you need hope today?

“Human beings can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only for one second without hope.”
That anonymous statement puts a lot of importance to hope. But what exactly do we mean by the word hope?

Hope is a strange word in the English language. In every day conversation we use it to refer to something that may or may not happen. So we say things like “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.” It may or may not rain tomorrow, but we are wanting it not to rain. Hence there is an uncertainty about the outcome and we ‘hope’ that there is one possible outcome over another.

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Psychologists refer to hope as “expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it; believing that a good future is something that can be brought about.”
In other words hope is more than wanting something to happen or be true, but actually thinking that it could happen or be true. The psychologist and researcher Shane Lopez has shown that hope in this way leads to a whole range of positive effects from better performance in school to more success in the workplace to greater happiness overall. According to Lopez, “When we’re excited about ‘what’s next,’ we invest more in our daily life, and we can see beyond current challenges.”

While many people struggle with hope in life, this form of hope can be learned and developed. According to Lopez, hopeful people share four core beliefs:

Podcast #018: Spiritual Maturity

When many people think of those who are religious, it seems to me they go to one of two extremes. Either  they think of someone who is arrogant and opinionated in their beliefs (especially to those who believe or think differently) or someone who is so nebulous and abstract in their thinking about God that they appear to accept anything and everything.

On this podcast interview my co-host Andrew Horton and I attempt to go beyond these stereotypes to something we call spiritual maturity.

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We discuss what does a spiritually mature person look like in the most positive sense?

Whether you are of no faith or any faith tradition, do join us in this fascinating discussion.

Here is a taster of our discussion (but to really benefit you will have to listen to the full 33 minute conversation):

We define spiritual maturity in terms of:

  • Who am I becoming as a person?
  • How do I look at my weaknesses and failings?
  • What kind of person am I like to be around others?

We also unpack the following characteristics of spiritual maturity, or as Gordon Macdonald describes them, ‘deep people’:

  • Demonstrating a consistent loyalty to Jesus: His life, His teachings, His challenges.
  • Have a hunger to keep on growing in every aspect of their lives regardless of age.
  • Love to inspire and lead others to grow in their personal faith.
  • Are people you love to be with because they love life and seem to know the best ways to live it.

Gordon Macdonald describes much more than this, but we summarise with an observation from the theologian Chris Wright in his observation of the late John Stott (1921-2011), former minister of the church my family and I attend at All Souls Langham Place in London:

“There are (three) characteristics I have observed (in John Stott) that I will emulate for the rest of my life. The three are rigorous self-discipline, absolute humility, and a prayerful spirit. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is that faithfulness to God is a combination of these three things.”

A helpful practical understanding of this from Chris Goswami is how prayer concerns how I relate to God; self-discipline is about how I relate to myself and humility is about how I should relate to others.

What questions and thoughts does this discussion raise for you?

You may also find of interest the following posts:

What Does A Spiritually Mature Person Look Like?

Spiritual Maturity

Podcast #007: Religion

Discovering Silence and Solitude

Why I Struggle With Religion

 

Do you need more grit?

Developing passion and perseverance for long term goals

Grit in common everyday language refers to the very small pieces of sand or stone found in air, food or water. In that context grit is an irritation. However, in psychology it is much more positive. In that case it relates to firmness of character or a tendency to keep going in spite of setbacks or failure. It is the tenacity to keep going no matter what. How much does grit matter in life? A lot.

The 6 minute TED talk below by Angela Duckworth opens up the question of how grit may well be the factor that distinguishes those who achieve and succeed in life with those who don’t.

We tend to assume that people succeed in life because of their natural giftedness or talent, their social intelligence or qualifications. But it is no way near as straight forward as that. I can think of a number of people who are talented and can do well academically in school, but then when the challenges in life became greater or more varied have struggled enormously. I have to confess that I too am one of those people.

Here is how Angela Duckworth in the video describes grit:

A message to a scared future mother

Handling fear of the unknown

The two minute video below was produced for World Down Syndrome Day in March 2014. It is addressed to a mother who has found out that she is going to have a child with Down Syndrome. She says quite simply, “I’m scared.”

The video is the response and reflection from 15 young people with Down Syndrome from all over Europe. It is both poignant and challenging. In the video they answer the question, “What kind of life will my child have?”

The message from the video is that for this mother, it is entirely possible that her son’s life will be happy, just like theirs. They point out that as someone with Down syndrome he has the potential to be able to learn how to write, to travel, to earn a salary and take her out to dinner. And when he is older maybe to live independently. Yes they admit, sometimes it will be very difficult, almost impossible, but then and here is the simple but profound point – isn’t that the case for all mothers? Don’t all parents at some time or another feel at the end of their own resources?

How assertive should you be?

Getting the balance right

I am not a naturally assertive person. In fact I can at times really struggle with getting my point across. Should I speak up and risk a confrontation? Or should I remain silent? Is this an issue I should let pass or should I be making an issue here? Such thoughts can often go through my mind But I am sure I am not the only person with this issue.
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The dilemma of what is appropriately assertive is vividly described in Solomon’s proverbs collected by Hezekiah (715-686 BC).  In the book of Proverbs (chapter 26:4-5) we find the two following sentences next to each other:
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly or you will be like him yourself.”
“Answer a fool according to his folly or he will be wise in his own eyes.”

The surprising thing is that although they are next to each to other, these two sentences are actually saying opposite things. How can that be? Why the apparent contradiction – when some one says something foolish, its best to keep quiet or you too will be foolish like them. Alternatively, when someone says something foolish you had better be assertive and speak up or that person will think he is being sensible. Depending on our personality we are likely to go for one more than the other. But which one is correct and more likely to get the response we require?

Podcast #017: The last taboo subject?

Making sense of the end of life

Death may well be the last taboo subject in modern Western society. The comedian Woody Allen is humorously quoted as saying, “I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens!” And yet while we try to put the topic out of our minds, a clear understanding of our mortality is so important in bringing clarity to our complex and at times challenging lives. As Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, said two years before he died, “Remembering I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 10.16.34And how true that is! The death rate the last scientists checked was 100%!

In the great Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, one of the characters Yamaraja asks, “What is the most wonder-full thing in the world?” The answer he is given:

“Hundreds and thousands of living entities meet death at every moment, but a foolish living being nonetheless thinks himself deathless and does not prepare for death. This is the most wonder-full thing in this world.”

On today’s podcast we have the privilege of speaking to Professor John Wyatt. John is Professor of Neonatal Paediatrics at University College, London and a Senior Research Fellow at the Faraday Institute, Cambridge University. He is married to Celia and and they have three grown-up sons.

 

John has written extensively on the subject of medical ethics and his latest book is entitled, “Right To Die? Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide and End of Life Care.”

It is an important book that sensitively explores this difficult subject with both compassion and intellectual rigour.

Do join us for this discussion where we explore:

  • Why dying well is something we all need to think about, even though we instinctively want to avoid the subject.
  • How valuable is a human life, especially a life that cannot reach its full potential?
  • Are some people’s lives so painful and full of suffering that they are not worth living?
  • We naturally assume that doctors, nurses and health professionals are caring and compassionate, and have our best interests at heart when it comes to these complex issues. Why is it not as straight forward as that?
  • What are lessons we learn from history about assisted suicide, assisted dying, eugenics and euthanasia?
  • Those who advocate for euthanasia and assisted dying talk less about pain reduction and more about choice and control. Why is that?
  • Why is it important to talk about these issues not just in a theoretical way, but with tears in our eyes?
  • How the United Kingdom is a world leader in end of life and palliative care.
  • How contrary to popular perception, becoming dependent on others and getting old are not necessarily evil or bad things.
  • Why, as is commonly expressed, dying suddenly in your sleep with no warning may not be the best way to die at all.
  • How does the Bible look at suicide and suffering that reaches the point of despair?
  • How does the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ speak to these issues?
  • In the light of all this what does it mean to die well?

 

What thoughts, comments and reflections does this important subject raise for you?

 

7 Life Lessons From A Skiing Holiday

I’ve never previously skied in my life. So starting at the age of 50 may well have seemed like a foolish idea. I have to confess that skiing has never been a life ambition of mine. However, family duty meant that a skiing holiday planned almost a year in advance was on the cards.
The picture below is us with our instructor, Christoph in early April 2016:

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In total 21 of us with my wife Sally’s family went away to France. We as the Raheja family had never skied before and so it seemed prudent to get lessons and take things cautiously. After a week of learning with my family I was clearly the slowest learner and most remedial skier of all of us. Sally’s family who are all very experienced have been very good at encouraging and being patient with us, especially me.

One week and thankfully no broken bones later here are some reflections and lessons from that time away. My intention is for this exercise in self-indulgence to encourage you in whatever challenges you may be facing: