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Introduce Grit into Your Life

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Necessity may keep you going at work and in your personal life, but necessity is a demanding master. If everything you do is because you are forced to do it by circumstances, your stress and anger builds. Your ability to reach a goal despite obstacles—your grit—disappears when you are not interested in (and my actively resent) what you are doing, constantly feel out of control in your life, and have no goal to reach or possibility of reaching it. This is a recipe for burnout.

What are you interested in? What are you willing to do over and over to improve your skill, your circumstances, or your enjoyment? What do you expect to achieve for yourself or others in persevering? What advantage does grit give you? If you know the answers to those questions, you are taking the first steps to introduce grit into your life.

How Do You Develop a Personal Interest?

Sometimes you fall into an interest because a cause (homeless children), an experience (a first walk through the woods), or a subject (old movies) ignites a spark. You might have a particular skill (running, reading, building) that’s easy for you and makes you feel good about yourself; you pursue it and become more and more interested in and expert at it.

But what if you are looking for an interest? What if you never had an interest, even in your work; perhaps you had an interest once but have reached your goals or outgrown it? Without an interest, life becomes flat; you never find or develop your new skills; and you lose your very capacity for grit—any willingness to pursue a goal with passion and perseverance.

What interests you must begin with what attracts your attention and then move on to what you can control and what is challenging.

  • To find something that grabs your attention, you must actively pursue experience and be willing to fail at it. If you give up on photography because you cannot immediately rival Dorothy Lange or Ansel Adams, you are dismissing the years in which they pursued their interest and the failures they endured.
  • As you build your skills, you begin exercising control over your life: first, by deciding what to pursue, what your goal is, and where to find sources of knowledge and later by exercising skills you didn’t have before.
  • The more you learn, the more you want to learn and are capable of learning. As challenges arise—whether finding time to take photos or adjusting light to create the exact image you want or applying to a gallery—you introduce grit into your life by facing and overcoming them.

TIP: First find your interest, then examine how you will go about satisfying it. 

How Do You Develop a Personal Goal?

Your goals at work are often set by others or by situations out of your control. Projects must achieve a certain return on investment; crises must be overcome; teams need direction. Even your personal goals at work—higher income, more responsibility, a promotion, a more flexible schedule—are also often set by others, by the expectations of family and friends, the organizational structure or the trends and needs of the marketplace.

When goal setting at work and in your personal life is controlled by other people, you can easily lose sight of what truly engages you. Just as employee engagement requires that employees have freedom and opportunity, you own engagement requires that you select your goals and develop a growth mindset, one open to possibilities.

So how do you find a goal in line with your interests? In setting SMaRT goals, you begin with the biggest goal, what you want to achieve over the next 5 or 10 years. Your big goal may center on your career, your family, your physical abilities, your skillset, your community or volunteer work, your social life, or any number of other areas of your life. If you cannot identify any future goal, even through wishful thinking, you may need professional help in overcoming whatever is holding you back.

Now that you’ve dreamed big, break that dream down into smaller pieces. What can you do in a year, a month, a week, a day, 5 minutes a day toward reaching that goal? Each time, start with the larger plan first, then move on to the next smaller plan, until you reach a to-do list. Maybe the first item in that list is to watch a video or buy a tool. As you work toward your goal step-by-step, you introduce grit into your life not only by persevering, but also by deepening your interest and desire to learn more and, therefore, your passion.

TIP: You must break a goal down as far as possible so as to keep it reachable and fit it into your current, daily life. Celebrate each small accomplishment. 

What Advantage Do You Gain from Grit?

Grit is not built by creating greater struggles, but by finding and sticking to something that is worth pursuing despite the struggles that occur. Grit should, ultimately, bring you joy in your goal, no matter how difficult the pursuit.

As a result of the coronavirus, AARP offered advice from experts on how to be happy and find joy when you are struggling. The article has good advice for anyone who wants to build their grit. The experts emphasize that happiness is a pursuit, not something that descends upon you, but something you acquire as you express gratitude, connect with people, keep mentally and physically active, allow yourself to savor small experiences, and celebrate small steps toward your goal. Happiness, it seems, requires grit—the willingness to keep on keeping on–even in unhappy times.

One way of experiencing the benefits of grit is to create a ceremony. You might create a ceremony around brushing your hair or lighting a candle each night or any small activity that allows you a moment of peace and a sense of accomplishment. You introduce grit into your life by exercising grit—in this case, repeating the same calming, renewing ritual every day. You might connect the ritual to your goal; for example, taking one picture of a potted plant at the same time every day or starting a fitness regime by walking around the block when you pick up mail from your mailbox every day. In essence, you are forming the habit of grit—and experiencing in little ways the joys of preserving.

TIP: We are involved in rituals and ceremonies from the day we are born until the day we die; why not create ones that give us joy and bring us closer to our goals?

Key Takeaways

By pursuing experience, building skills, and staying open to learning, you will find your interest. You can then establish long-term, short-term, and immediate goals around that interest. Ceremony will help you form the habit of pursuing your interest. Before you know it, you will have introduced grit into your life and gained its benefits.

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