We have witnessed a number of incredible feats of courage and outstanding performance over the past few weeks with athletes overcoming incredible odds to achieve at the pinnacle of their sport. One highlight was Dennis Kimetto’s world record at the Berlin Marathon and the toughness shown as always, throughout both the AFL and NRL finals series. This weekend is Bathurst 1000, where the stage is set for more incredible feats of courage in what is arguably the most gruelling event of the V8 Supercars calendar.
What drives these performers to push human limits and overcome pain and fatigue barriers to achieve extraordinary results?
According to Angela Lee Duckworth, the answer is a simple four-letter word, grit. Duckworth describes grit as passion and perseverance for long-term goals, in other words, successful high achievers keep going and going and going…because their goal is so important to them that they will stop at nothing to overcome any obstacle in their way and achieve their goal. Duckworth has conducted a number of studies on success, looking at who is successful and why they are successful, and she found grit to be a key predictor of success.
How do you develop grit and become extraordinarily successful?
- Find out what you’re passionate about and pursue it. At the recent World Scientific Congress of Golf that both Andrea and I attended on the Gold Coast, Philip DiBella, CEO of DiBella Coffee, used the phrase, passion equals sacrifice. If you are passionate about something, it will be difficult for you to give up and easier for you to sacrifice other things to ensure you can see it/do it/achieve it. For example, if you are passionate about swimming you will be more likely to get up when everyone else is sleeping and follow the black line up and down the pool for hours a day. This may seem like a mundane task to some, but when it is backed by passion it is worth it.
- Set goals based on your passion so you have a direction and a purpose behind your actions. If you have a goal of being a pro golfer one day, you can rationalise giving up other things you enjoy to make more time to practice as well as choosing to spend your money on coaching and equipment. These sacrifices are more difficult if you have no goal you are aiming towards.
- Visualise your goal and you achieving your goal. If you can see it and clearly define it, you increase the chances that you can have it. Visualisation will stir up and support your passion.
- Maintain a growth mindset. Carol Dweck has written a great book called Mindset in which she describes the difference between growth mindset and fixed mindset. Growth mindset relates to the belief that you can improve your intelligence or abilities in any area through hard work and learning, regardless of where you begin. Fixed mindset is the belief that you are born with fixed intelligence and abilities and cannot change with learning and hard work. Fixed mindset leads to restricted learning and promotes fear of failure. Dweck found that when children with a growth mindset understood about the brain and how it grows with challenge, they were more likely to accept failure and have an increased drive to embrace adversity as important for learning and as a result, and were more likely to succeed.
At Mental Notes we work with athletes to assist with developing grit and base our practice on growth mindset – if you can train your body, you can also train your brain!
For more information on Grit, watch Duckworth’s TED talk.