I am sure by now most of you have seen the article or the TEDX talk about grit. Grit is loosely defined by the idea of putting your head down and getting to work. Overcoming the odds by simply clenching your jaw and grinding through it. It is a great idea – all you have to do is want it more than the next and you can have. But here’s the rub – this idea of grit and how you learn new skills, accomplish your goals, and get things done is bullshit.
It’s a great story as it implies that if you want to accomplish something it just takes some elbow grease. Want to start a new business? Roll up those sleeves and get it done. Want to start waking up everyday at 5 AM? Stop being a baby and do it. Want to get in shape? Just start working out. The idea of grit removes nuance and we love for life to be a nice simple little package so it gets shared across facebook again and again. It also allows us to believe that the only thing stopping us from getting what we want is a little hard work.
While I think grit is a load of crap, let’s talk about the two things that can help you turn something you want into a habit.
The first is a WHY. Why do you want to accomplish this goal? This is the part that grit confuses – we will move mountains for something we truly believe in and aligns with our personal beliefs. This means we will have a ton of “grit” for something important to us. But may not have much “grit” for something we don’t have a strong reason to do. And therein lies the rub – we all can have grit if we have a big enough why behind it. This means the next time you want to make a new habit, or start something new – figure out why you want to do it. Also, since we help people to find their why’s for working out during intros for a living, here is some advice – wanting to lose some weight is not a why. A why is wanting to be able to run around with your kids at the park or wanting to feel confident in yourself when you go to a party in a dress. A why is specific and has a meaning attached to your life.
The second is the idea of the abyss that comes when you take on any new challenge. When we first take on something new, everything is great. We are improving every single day and our motivation is high. Then there comes a point where everything gets really hard – our enthusiasm cannot carry us forward anymore and we are not seeing those daily or even weekly improvements. Sometimes it can even feel like we are regressing backwards and this is mentally the killer. Humans like to envision progress as a straight upward line, so this feeling of plateau or even regression really gets us questioning what the hell we are doing. So what gets us through the abyss? Remembering the reason why we started in the first place – our WHY.
I hope the next time things get hard along a journey you are taking, you do two things. First, you sit down and remember why it was important to you in the first place. Then you realize that you are sitting in the abyss. The point where you get to make the tough decision – quit now or push through. One othre thing to remember – sometimes quit now is the right answer. If your why is just not powerful enough to push through the hard part, then qutting is ok. Quitting is not always failure, sometimes it is freeing yourself up for something better.
Most of the time though, your why will still be there, strong as ever and you just have to grit your way through to the other side where success happens – oops, maybe grit isn’t bullshit in the right cases.