The ability to bounce back from adversity and keep going when things get tough are just two of the traits of highly successful individuals. These traits are more commonly known as grit and resilience.
Grit vs. Resilience
According to Angela Duckworth, a researcher and MacArthur Fellowship winner who has a TED talk on grit with just over 8 million views, grit is “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”
Duckworth's research has evolved around discovering why some individuals—given the same talent, intelligence, and resources—accomplish more than other individuals. In attempting to define the essence of grit, she has discovered that grit can be related to how much you can inspire yourself, access your passion, and sustain your motivation.
How is this different than resilience? Resilience involves the ability to get back up when you’ve been knocked down or to come back fighting stronger after a loss.
The subtle differentiating factor of these two deeply entwined character traits seems to be that resilience is the optimism to continue when times are tough and you’ve experienced some failures, when others see continuing as futile or impossible. Grit is the drive that keeps you on a difficult task over a sustained period of time.
A Growth Mindset
Is the amount of grit and resilience something that you're born with and limited to, or are these resources that you can deplete and expand by your habits and choices?
Carol Dweck studies growth mindset and the work she’s done has shown that you can change your mindset, which would also be relevant to changing your grit. Dweck has researched tenacity and its effects on achievement, especially in an educational setting, and she has discovered the following factors that affect the ongoing tenacity or grit of students:
- Their beliefs about themselves
- Their goals
- Their feelings about their social connectedness
- Their self-regulatory skills
When students have a growth mindset (this is a mindset that will perceive a challenge as an opportunity to learn rather than an obstacle to overcome), they respond with constructive thoughts and their behavior shows persistence rather than defeatedness.
Mindfulness and Resilience
According to new research out of India, mindfulness actually breeds resilience. In a study featuring 327 undergrads who completed a series of surveys measuring their level of mindfulness, their satisfaction with life, their emotional state, and their level of resilience, individuals with higher mindfulness levels had greater resilience thereby increasing their life satisfaction.
5 Quick Tips to Develop Grit and Resilience
1. Focus on Your Language Choice
The language you use when praising a co-worker, child, or spouse affects grit and resilience. When you praise someone for a characteristic or strength, (for example, “You are really smart. You are so flexible.”), it teaches a fixed mindset. This is why so many successful children struggle once they come across a challenge. Praising for effort or strategy fosters resilience and reminds them of their role in a successful outcome.
2. Surround Yourself with Positive People
Your thoughts become your reality, and so do the thoughts and actions of the people around you. While you can’t pick and choose every single person you interact with on a daily basis, you can be intentional about those you spend time with. By creating an environment where positive thinking and growth mindset are the norm, you will begin to see everything in your life as supporting you rather than thwarting you.
3. Adopt Flexible Thinking Patterns
Becoming less rigid in your thoughts and actions allows resilience and grit to blossom simply because flexible people don’t see problems; they see opportunities for growth and learning. When every challenge is met with creative thinking, you see yourself as capable and this confidence breeds more resilience.
4. Set Goals That Align with Your Purpose
People with a sense of purpose are happier. Purpose can seem like a hard-to-define goal. By creating smaller goals along the pathway to your larger purpose, you increase your success and the rate in which you accomplish your goals.
5. Build Time into Your Day for Reflection
When you take a time to reflect, you bring awareness to the things you have accomplished and the path you want to take. Whether your reflection takes the form of a meditation, a journaling session, or a walk outside, when you give yourself time to assess your accomplishments in a non-judgmental day, it allows you to adjust your actions accordingly.
Like most valuable skills, resilience and grit take practice. However, the work is well worth your effort because fostering these mindset-expanding traits will have a positive impact on every aspect of your life.