A Coaching Power Tool Created by Lisa Eklund
(Equestrian Performance Coach, USA)
Think of a time when life dealt you a blow and you felt that the path to your passion and success was fully blocked. You could see no way around the roadblock and the attainment of your goal seemed impossible. What did you do? Did you stay stuck in your misery, did you give up on your goal and passion or dig down deep and find your “grit” in order to pave a new path to your desired goal and the ultimate success of living your life’s passion and purpose?
It is easy to have a passion for something. We all do at some level. But it is the people with grit who keep following their passion no matter what life throws at them. Timothy Shriver in his book “Fully Alive: Discovering What Matters Most” wrote a whole chapter on the subject of having grit. Much of the chapter is about the Special Olympic athletes he works with and how much grit they have. He writes, “If we are going to pursue our dreams, if we are going to muster the grit and optimism necessary to bring those dreams to life, we need to silence the voices in our heads, and around us that tell us not to try.”(Shriver 2014: 196) He also writes about the research being done trying to understand grit by Angela Lee Duckworth at The University of Pennsylvania. She has found that,
Grit influences success more than IQ or any other personality factor. The research defines “grit” as having two parts-one is perseverance and the other is passion for long term goals. (Shriver 2014: 195)
Duckworth states in a September 2013 Educational Leadership interview that,
Grit is not just having resilience in the face of failure, but also having deep commitments that you remain loyal to over many years.(Duckworth 2013: 14-20)
Duckworth state in her TED Talk that though she knows grit is an important factor in success, she is not sure how we can develop grit.
To me the most shocking thing about grit is how little we know, how little science knows about building it. Every day, parents and teachers ask me, ‘How do I build grit in kids? What do I do to teach kids a solid work ethic? How do I keep them motivated for the long run?’ The honest answer is I don’t know. (Duckworth 2103: TED)
Duckworth continues with this,
So far, the best idea I’ve heard about building grit in kids is something called ‘growth mindset.’ This is an idea developed at Stanford University by Carol Dwek, and it is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with your effort. Dr, Dwek has shown that when kids read and learn about the brain and how it changes and grows in response to challenge, they are much more likely to persevere when they fail, because they don’t believe their failure is a permanent condition. (Duckworth 2103: TED)
Someone who has found their grit does not give up when life’s challenges get in the way. They may have moments of feeling helpless and down. But they have the tools to shift their perspective and find ways to surmount the obstacles in their path. They use their challenges as life lessons and self-growth opportunities. They also understand that the rewards to their efforts are usually not instantaneous and that it takes long term determination to achieve whatever it is they want.
So how does someone find their grit and make it grow? Research aside, everyone has overcome a hurdle of some size in their lives, so everyone must have a bit of grit even if it is in hiding. As Glinda in “The Wizard of Oz” said to Dorothy, “You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas”. The Scarecrow asks, “Why didn’t you tell her before?” Glinda replies, “Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.” So finding your grit requires you to look inward and not outward for the solutions to your problems in life. Self-reflection is important in order to find that part of your SELF that is strong and capable of forging forward and remaining positive.
Remember the rough times you have experienced and how you felt. What did you do to work through your troubles and how long you did stay stuck in your troubles before you found a new path? What did you learn from your experience and what was it in you that helped you move forward? Even if you stayed mired in your troubles, with your feet stuck to the ground for a very long time, you did eventually move forward? What did you do to make that happen? Whatever you did came from your grit. Maybe it wasn’t a big move forward, but it was a move forward.
Finding a quiet place to meditate can help you remember when you found the strength to make it through tough times. Sometimes we forget how truly strong and resourceful we have been in the past. Quiet reflection is a way to gain clarity of insight and to retrieve those forgotten tools we have used in the past. If meditation is not for you finding anyplace quiet and just being with your breath can do. Or a walk in nature may help you to help find that inner strength. You can also put your thoughts down in writing to help you make more real past successes and understand how you achieved them. You soon will discover that you do have some “grit.”
Focus on that spark of strength and grit. Then grow it. Use the “growth mindset” developed by Carol Dwek and take the spark of “grit” that you discovered and make it a flame next time you face a seemingly unsurmountable obstacle in your path. Learn from each experience, good or bad and keep growing that grit on your pathway to success.
Don’t be discouraged if you feel stuck again in your life. That happens to everyone, grit or not. Having grit does not prevent you from getting stuck, failing or feeling unsure about what is next. Having grit allows you the strength to move forward no matter how hard the fall. You will certainly have to go back to the times of reflection to help you yet again. In fact, making a practice of meditating, quiet reflection, writing or some other form self-discovery will help you be at peace in the toughest of times so that you can better see the path ahead.
If a client struggles with moving forward when faced with obstacles on the path to their life purpose and ultimate success the coach can help them recognize and build on their strengths. As the client discovers these strengths they will realize they do have the grit to get through tough times, learn from their mistakes and lessons and grow from every experience they have.
Some powerful questions the coach can ask would be:
- Remember a time in your life that you faced some struggles. What did you do to move forward?
- How long did it take you to move forward and when you did what was the motivator to help you do so?
- What did it feel like when you were stuck and how did it serve you to be stuck?
- What were the tools and strengths you used to move forward?
- What did it feel like when you moved past your obstacles and found success and how did that feeling serve you?
- What lessons did you learn from your struggle and subsequent successes?
- What self-growth occurred during this time?
- How can you build on those tools and strengths and lessons to persevere whenever you are blocked in your path in life?
This is just a suggestion as a path to helping a client find their “grit.” Really there is no “recipe” in coaching as each client is unique and they are in control of where a session goes. Start the questions and let the client lead the way. Any questions asked may well be answered over several sessions as the client will need time to reflect on each one and have their time for self-discovery. The coach can help the client find the practice of self-reflection that best suits the client. It may be journaling, meditating, quiet walks in nature or any form of quiet time that suits the client best. Asking the client how they have best done self-reflection in the past may help them develop a good practice and help them to find their grit. The coach will support the client through process continually directing them to discover their strength and grit. They will learn to build on their newly discovered strength and take lessons from every experience they have to help them live a purposeful, successful life.
What practice do you have to support your self-reflection? Use that practice to discover your answers to the powerful questions listed above and to discover your “grit.”
Duckwort, Angela Lee. “The Key to Success? Grit.” TED. April 2013. Lecture. http://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_the_key_to_success_grit?language=en
— “The Significance of Grit: A Conversation with Angela Lee Duckworth.” Interview by Deborah Perkins-Gough. Educational Leadership 71.1. (2013): 14-20. Web. 31 Dec. 2014.
Shriver, Timothy. Fully Alive; Discovering What Matters Most. New York: Sarah Crichton Books, 2014. Print.
The Wizard of Oz Dir. Victor Fleming and King Vidor. MGM 1939.