Soft skills are often assumed to be inherent traits; either someone has them or they don’t, right? Wrong! A growing body of research shows that people can be trained to develop personal and behavioral attributes.
Grit — the powerful combination of passion and perseverance — is a strong predictor of future success, and it’s just one of the many soft skills that can be learned. The concept has been popularized by psychologist and talent science expert Angela Duckworth; she even has a Grit Scale you can use to quickly assess your own grit level.
If you’re a manager, not only do you want to demonstrate grittiness for your team — you also want to help each member develop this capability. And if you’re an employee, developing some extra grittiness will make you a better performer. Here, we’ll cover some strategies that you can use to train for grit.
Cultivate a growth mindset
When it comes to your potential for success, it all starts with your mindset, or the way you view the world. According to Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck, mindsets fall into one of two categories: “growth” and “fixed.”
People with a fixed mindset believe their traits, abilities and interests will not change — their mantra would be, “I am who I am.” In contrast, people with a growth mindset believe they can learn and evolve continuously throughout their lives. In this way, a growth mindset supports success by focusing on possibilities for learning, skill-building and new experiences.
Those with a growth mindset see new ideas, projects and even challenges as opportunities to embrace. Within this mental framework, failure is acknowledged as an inevitable part of life — one that can be harnessed and learned from, channeling potentially negative experiences into future successes.
You and your employees can cultivate growth mindsets by implementing targeted individual and team strategies; exploring and learning new skills; and venturing outside your comfort zones to tackle new types of projects.
Define your goals and purpose
People with grit focus on their long-term vision: this provides a sense of purpose as you work to meet the individual goals needed to realize your ultimate dream. Purpose is key to sustaining passion and perseverance, whether in times of success or setbacks.
Clearly defining a larger vision, as well as the goals that will get you there, is an important exercise for those who want to train for grit. For teams, these responsibilities fall to the manager. First, ensure that employees understand and are aligned around your long-term vision for the future. Don’t assume it’s clear to everyone; when in doubt, spell it out!
Next, work with team members to identify the individual and shared goals that must be achieved to realize the broader purpose. Finally, managers should be willing to adapt both the short-term goals and the methodology for achieving them as conditions change.
Whether you’re an individual or part of a team, flexibility and adaptability are important aspects of grittiness. Staying focused on the greater purpose helps develop these qualities, and supports resiliency under changing conditions.
Practice makes perfect
In their quest to be the best, gritty people identify their purpose and goals, zero in on the skills needed to get them there — then develop those skills through regular practice. By refining skills daily and diligently, practice becomes second nature, and productive habits are formed.
It’s important to remember that mastery doesn’t happen overnight, but rather, is an incremental process. Whether you’re a manager looking to develop your own leadership skills or you want to help employees advance, set micro-goals that can be achieved bit by bit, and embrace these incremental and consistent signs of progress.
Many high achievers cite the value of this approach, in which multiple smaller successes lead to larger, long-term wins. It all goes back to the growth mindset: Believe that you can develop your skills and talents, then take the steps needed to make it happen.
Nurture yourself to get grittier
While many think resiliency comes from pushing oneself ever-harder, people actually do better when they give themselves a chance to recharge. The old logic of “toughing it out” is counterproductive and leads to burnout; after all, the mind needs time to rest and recuperate, just like the body.
Making time for mental recovery allows you to return to work stronger and sharper. Recovery can include activities such as going to the gym, taking a walk, pursuing a fun hobby or simply relaxing.
Meditation and mindfulness techniques aid internal recovery while simultaneously building grit. Proven health benefits of meditation include reduced stress and anxiety; better emotional health; enhanced concentration; building empathy; and improving focus. An added bonus: meditation improves sleep, which is a necessity for maintaining peak performance.
Train for grit to enhance future success
Building grit is a lifelong process, and it’s never too late to start. Given the close relationship between grittiness and success, this important skill should be cultivated among employees, managers and CEOs alike to maximize future potential.
You can train for grit with a few simple strategies: First, cultivate a growth mindset focused on building future possibilities and expanding skills. Next, map out a clear purpose to motivate individuals and teams, and identify the goals that must be achieved along the way. Define the skills needed to make these goals a reality, then develop the habits necessary to develop those abilities.
Finally, remember that taking time to recharge is critical for productivity. Employees and managers alike must take time to replenish, so they can return to work more resilient, empathetic, efficient and creative.
It’s never too late to grow your grit — so why not start now?