Grit matters for SOF families
Most people think that talent and ability are the keys to peak performance and achievement. However, “grit” can facilitate success above and beyond your talents and skills.

By: Mind - Mental Health - 11/15/2018

Most people believe that talent and ability are what primarily enable peak performance and achievement.  However, emerging research shows that "grit"—a combination of effort and interest—can facilitate success above and beyond your talents and skills.  Grit is a psychological characteristic that shares some features with hardiness and mental toughness.

Operators, Enablers, and their families probably can envision what people with grit are like in terms of their attitudes and behaviors.  They might view grit as one's ability to "suck it up and drive on" amid difficult situations. It's defined primarily as persistence—your ability to endure and carry on in the face of challenges and adversity.

An additional facet of grit is consistency of interest or passion.  Gritty people often are intensely committed to top-level personal goals for what they want to accomplish in life.

Why Does Grit Matter?

Gritty people don't give up easily in the face of setbacks.  They set goals, work hard, and stick with things until they achieve their desired end.  People with grit aren't easily distracted by new ideas and projects, and their interests remain stable from year to year.

Grit also can be a factor in performance, especially during stressful, challenging, and demanding events.  Grit can predict academic achievement in college students and adults.  It can predict retention of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) through their first year of grueling training and schoolwork.  Grit might be able to predict how much effort and time someone is willing to commit to physical exercise, as well as the amount of time someone's willing to practice to improve a particular skill.

How Can You Get Grit? And Can You Raise Gritty Kids?

Genetics and personality account for some grit, but everyone can work toward getting grittier.  Try these strategies to boost your grit and pass it on to your kids.

  • Practice, practice, practice.  You can increase your capacity to perform difficult tasks and develop skills by practicing things in a disciplined manner. Engage in focused and deliberate efforts to shore up weaknesses and make gradual progress every day.  For your children, give them some space to become independent, so they can be self-reliant and self-motivated to engage in practice.

  • Find purpose and hone interests.  When the things you do every day fit your interests, you're likely to feel more engaged and satisfied, perform better, and stay at your job longer than those whose interests aren't aligned.  That might seem like an obvious connection, but even if your everyday duties aren't exactly what you're interested in, find ways to fuel your internal motivation. Ask yourself, "Why does this matter to me? How does it matter to others in the world around me?".  For your children, reward commitment by giving them more chances to develop their interests.  For example, if your child is always painting, encourage it by sending him or her to an art class or even art camp.

Build Optimism

Cultivating optimism enables you to remain hopeful in the face of inevitable setbacks.  Try to think of one of the grittiest people you know. Whether the person is an athlete, Operator, or family member, you might notice that he or she worked through roadblocks by maintaining hope.

Try to accurately attribute the causes of your own successes and failures too.  And know that even though you might not have reached your goals yet, there are many opportunities ahead to get there.  Teach your children that failures and setbacks are an essential part of learning.  Remind them that excellence comes from both triumphs and mistakes.

  • Provide praise and encouragement.  Encourage others to remain persistent by providing motivational encouragement.  But not all praise is created equal.  When your children do well, praise them for working hard and using their talents, not just for having talent already.  Calling them "gifted" or "talented" doesn't help; such labels can undermine the idea that effort counts more than ability, making them averse to taking risks in the future.

Grit can contribute greatly to your chances of achieving success.  It can help you handle difficulties and remain passionate in the face of setbacks. Grit doesn't develop overnight, though.  It takes time.  And as parents, we can help cultivate attitudes to help our kids learn to be more gritty.

But remember that children are children and need lots of free time and play time to develop optimally too. 

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