We all really want to stick to our New Years resolutions, but do we have what it takes? According to research, what it takes is grit.
So, what exactly is grit and how do we get some?
Excerpts from a Freakonomics interview with Psychologist and Researcher, Angela Lee Duckworth, explain the four traits that gritty people have in abundance: interest, practice, purpose, and hope.
So one thing that I found about paragons of grit, you know, real outliers in passion and perseverance, is that they have extremely well-developed interests. They cultivate something which grabs their attention initially, but that they become familiar with enough, knowledgeable enough that they wake up the next day and the next day and the next year, and they’re still interested in this thing. And I think that is something that we can actually intentionally decide: “I want to be the kind of person who stays interested in something.” And so that passion really does have to come first…
But I will say this: it is human nature to get bored of things and to seek the novel. And I think that one of the skills that one must develop in life, if one cares not to be a dilettante, if it’s a goal of yours to become expert in something, one of the skills is to learn to substitute nuance for novelty.
The second stage really does have this quality of laboring in a very methodical way and in a very unfun way for most people to get better and better at this thing that you’ve become interested in…
The ability to take a large something, and break it up into little tasks, and to fractionate things so that they’re not so overwhelming and that you can do them. So that is the second stage, and it’s about doing things that you can’t yet do.
Connecting your work, or even your hobby if that’s where your real passion is, to people who are not you. So it’s a beyond-the-self purpose that I’m particularly observing in grit paragons. And I used to think, well, of course that will apply to people who are working on the cure to cancer or people who are working in community organization. But, in fact, even athletes, who you might say, “Well, they’re doing something kind of selfish, right? They’re trying to win the gold medal for themselves.” But even these people who have ostensibly very personal, or you could argue, selfish interests, they really see how their work is connected to other people. Athletes will say they feel connected to their teammates, to the sport as a whole. So I think that this third stage doesn’t happen at the front for most people.
You really do need hope from beginning to end. Because, of course, no matter where you are in your journey, there are going to be potholes and detours and things that might make you think that it’s not worth staying on this path. So hope, essentially, is the belief that there’s something you can do to come back from these problems or from these challenges. And I say that it’s the fourth component, but it’s really something that you need at varying degrees in varying ways all along.
So when you feel like giving up on your 2017 goals:
- Recall why you became interested in this resolution in the first place.
- Remember that living up to your resolve will take daily, “unfun” practice.
- Consider how working toward your goal contributes toward good that extends beyond you.
- Hold optimism close; it will carry you through the valleys.
If you want to go more in-depth on the topic of grit or listen to the entire 44min Freakonomics podcast on the topic, click to visit their website.