What’s the difference between the fraction of people who end up wildly successful, and everyone else who falls short of their dreams? It’s not necessarily talent, skill, or luck. For many, all that stands between success and failure is an intangible concept that has gone by many names through the years: stick-to-it-iveness, moxie, gumption. In the current lexicon, we know it as “grit.”
The idea of grit has been around for awhile but has exploded lately as experts and psychologists search for ways to close the achievement gaps in schools, creating equitable opportunities for all. Psychologist Dr. Angela Duckworth, in particular, has been a leading voice for this concept. She started out as a middle school math teacher who was frustrated by students who weren’t living up to their potential. She realized that student perseverance made a greater difference in student success than any other factor, including talent or IQ. Duckworth, whose interest in this field inspired her to study psychology, has recently published a book on her findings, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.”
She calls grit the tendency to live life like a marathon, not a sprint, with the stamina to keep your long-term goals in mind, day in and day out, no matter what.
A simple secret to success
The same principles apply to financial management. There isn’t any crash course, get-rich-quick trick or secret method out there, and anyone who tells you differently is selling something. As Duckworth says, all you really need to succeed is the grit to stick with your plan, day after day, by committing to doing the little things over and over again. It’s discipline and sacrifice. That’s the big secret to building wealth: spend far less than you earn. If your budget is out of balance, adjust it accordingly by whatever means you have in your power. Wake up. Go to work. Avoid spending unnecessary money. Repeat. Staying committed to this sort of lifestyle pays dividends in the end, but it’s thankless in the short run. It takes grit.
So, how do we develop grit? Depending on our personalities and upbringing, some of us are likely more predisposed to “grittiness” than others. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t take steps and adopt healthy habits to make ourselves more resilient! Here are some helpful tips and traits of resilient people from the American Psychological Association.
In a nutshell, many of these revolve around a positive outlook, good self-care, and focusing only on what you can control.
Keep the big picture in mind
Resilient people maintain a healthy perspective, refusing to become derailed or upset by problems or roadblocks. Ask yourself: will this really matter a week from now? A month? A year? If we’re honest with ourselves, most of the time the answer is “no.” Yet we get so caught up in the drama of our day-to-day lives that it can be hard to keep the bigger picture in mind. Your future goals should always be at the forefront.
On that same note, learn to embrace change. Most people don’t like change, but like death and taxes, it’s an unavoidable part of life. Those who learn to go with the flow without becoming stressed out over uncontrollable changes will be much happier in the long run. Also, remain flexible and adaptable. Maybe your goals and timelines need to shift as a result of your changing circumstances, and that’s OK.
The importance of goals cannot be overstated: make them actionable and realistic, write them down, and put them in a place where you’ll see them every day. It sounds like a simple thing, but it really makes a difference in keeping your goals top-of-mind. Try to do one small thing every day that brings you even the slightest bit closer to reaching your goal. Did you save $2 by bringing coffee to work instead of buying it? Great; put it into your savings account! Did you save $60 by negotiating a better rate on your cable bill? Wonderful; put it toward your credit card balance. No achievement is too small — it all adds up.
Don’t engage in negative or discouraging self-talk. Instead, build yourself up and embrace a more constructive viewpoint. Instead of saying, “I’ll never get out of debt,” say “It’s going to take a few years and some hard work, but I will meet my financial goals.” This ties into another tenet of grit that’s emerged recently: the growth mindset versus the fixed mindset.
RELATED POST: Don’t Give Up Until You Do The Math
Educators say that students with a “fixed mindset” have the perception that they can’t improve their skill levels. But students with a “growth mindset” will be more successful because they believe they have the ability to learn, grow and change. For instance, a student who says “Math is a little harder for me, but I can understand it with extra effort” is more likely to succeed than one who says, “I will never be good at math.”
People who have a good support system in their lives are more likely to be resilient. Nurture your connections with friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. Join service organizations and get involved in clubs. The stronger your network is, the stronger your grit will be. Also, get involved by doing volunteer work. Many people report that they feel they get a greater benefit out of volunteering than the recipients of the help — this is a great psychological boost, and can also help put your own problems into perspective.
Lastly, you are your own best advocate — not your spouse, your parent, your boss or your friend. Make self-care a priority, because no one else is going to do it for you. Get plenty of sleep, eat right, drink lots of water, and get some exercise, even if it’s just a 15-minute walk. If you feel yourself getting down, break away from your negative thoughts by doing something fun. Pet your cat. Watch a funny video. Take a nap — do whatever you need to in order to refuel, and don’t feel guilty about it for a moment. You need to be in the best physical and mental shape to be resilient and stick with your goals.
Knowing what to do, and even having the expertise, talent and luck to be able to do it, is only half the battle to reaching your goals. But when those ingredients are combined with a healthy dose of grit — the self-discipline and raw determination to stick to your course — you’re much more likely to succeed.