I’ve been thinking about “grit” ever since Pink Petro’s announcement of their Grit Award winners, for women in the energy industry who have demonstrated grit in their lives and professions. Angela Duckworth’s 2016 book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, made “grit”, defined as strength of character, into something to which we all aspire – or at least hold in esteem.
But our culture tends to work in extremes. Whether we are “leaning in”, achieving “synergy”, or practicing “mindfulness”, we tend to take off running with the “next big thing”. With that concern in mind, I began to think about whether there is ever a need to be less “gritty”. Grit is good, but let’s make sure to balance between when we “grit it out” and when we shift.
When to Grit it Out and When to Give it Up
Growing up, “don’t quit”, “never give up” and “honor your commitment” were common phrases around the home. All of these are great values and have served me well in life and career.
In her book, Grit, Angela Duckworth defines grit as the combination of passion and perseverance, or the modern equivalent to my childhood advice. Duckworth does a marvelous job of breaking down the components of grit and how to grow grit in our character.
But can grit go too far?
I recall a time when I was in a job that was not right for me. It was a tough job for anyone given the circumstances, but even more so for me. I didn’t have the required technical skills, I didn’t have the necessary leadership maturity for this special situation, I didn’t have a support network in place and I flat out did not like the type of role it was. It played to none of my strengths.
Yet I kept thinking I needed to stick it out. I kept telling myself that “This is a great job! I should be honored to have such a high-profile role.” All the while I was miserable and not performing up to my usual professional standards.
At one point I was even offered a chance to exit the role but opted to “grit it out” and declined the offer.
“Don’t give up.”
“You can do this.”
Those childhood messages kept swirling in my brain. I had to do this.
What was the problem?
While I certainly had the perseverance down, I was missing a key characteristic of grit. I had no passion for this job. In fact, the lack of passion for the type of role it was left me stressed and impacted my ability to see strategically, to learn the skills needed and to keep an optimistic outlook. I completely disregarded my own self-care.
Perseverance without passion is not grit. It’s a road to stress and setback.
Perseverance in an area totally unrelated to our strengths is a double whammy. It’s a race to the bottom.
The same can be said for passion without perseverance. It’s all fun and enthusiasm but without the long-term effort and commitment that ultimately yields results. I think of those motivational speeches that get us all pumped up to make changes in our lives or careers. We leave the auditorium committed, enthusiastic and passionate. Then we go home or to the office and it’s the same old people, work, environment. The passion soon dies without some practical tools and everyday practice that can keep it alive. Perseverance requires knowing – or being able to learn – what to do and how to do it so that passion can come alive in results.
Duckworth believes that grit can be “grown.” She refers to interest, practice, purpose and hope as the elements needed to develop your grit. That’s where coaching can come in. Taking advantage of personal development opportunities like coaching can help you find your passion and apply it with perseverance. The key is to take the time to develop yourself and your own personal style of “grit”.
If grit is causing you grief, or if you want to develop more grit, then let’s talk. Finding your own path and your own style are what’s important for your authenticity and fulfillment. For a complementary consultation, email Susan.
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Susan Hodge created Women Leading Together in order to provide one-on-one executive coaching, seminars, workshops, and coaching circles to help career women move forward to create fulfilling professional lives. Visit our newly redesigned website at www.WomenLeadingTogether.com
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