Monthly Archives: October 2017

Mastery at Work – Role of Grit

The great violinist Itzhak Perlman was afflicted with polio in his childhood and was crippled by it. He was able to walk only with braces and crutches. One evening, Perlman was scheduled to play a difficult challenging violin concerto. In middle of the performance one of the strings of his violin snapped with a loud sound that filled the entire auditorium. The orchestra immediately stopped playing and the audience held its breath.

Everyone assumed that Perlman would stop playing, put on his crutches and leave the stage.

After a brief while, Perlman set his violin under his chin, signalled the conductor to begin. “It is impossible to play a violin concerto with three strings” But that night, Perlman refused to know it. He was modulating, changing, and recomposing his head. When he finished, there was an awesome silence that filled the room. Then audience rose and cheered. Perlman smiled wiped his brow and raised the bow of his violin to quieten them. He spoke, quietly in a pensive tone, “you know, our job is make music with what remains”.

If there is something which holds ultimate importance when it comes to success at achieving goals, it is Grit.

Grit can be defined as perseverance and passion to achieve goals. It is high level of motivation to achieve goals, it is the ability to stick despite of all the obstacles and failures. The term “Grit” was made popular by Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at University of Pennsylvania. Angela says the single most important factor responsible for success is grit.

How do we develop “Grit”?  we can develop grit by being consistent about our goals (goal posts should not keep changing frequently). By sticking to our long term goals in spite of failures. By being committed and passionate towards the goals we are trying to achieve.  To be committed in the long term to a goal, it is very important to be aware of dips which might occur along the way reducing our motivation.  It is very important that during these short term phases of discouragement and lack of enthusiasm, we keep working towards our goals and not break down when things get tough or we face a setback.

It is not difficult to develop “Grit”.  To develop “Grit”, we need to become mentally tough. Mental toughness calls for physical toughness and people who undergo extreme physical conditions tend to be very tough mentally.  Such tough physical conditions are bearing extreme temperatures, vigorous physical activities, and fasting. Meditation is also known to increase grit. Stepping out of comfort zone makes us grittier.

Apart from mental toughness, we need to realize the power of consistent efforts and actions. Consistent efforts and actions towards achieving our goals requires planning and organization.  Defining our routines and sticking to them helps us in maintaining consistency.  An important character in people who show grit is conscientiousness. Being conscientious, calls for systematic nature and lot of self-control.

While working conscientiously we need to measure results and make ourselves and others accountable for their results at all times.  Ability to solve problems and overcome difficulties will help you to stick to your goals than abandoning goals all together.  Strong support from friends and spouse can go a long way in helping you to stick to your goals.

Faith in oneself and optimism also increases resilience and grit. Another method to increase your confidence to read self-help books and watching inspiring videos, particularly when we don’t have motivational buddies to inspire us. Motivational self-talk can go a long way in changing our attitude towards failure and obstacles.

Conversely setting unrealistic goals, staying with negative people, getting flustered by setbacks can all act adversely on our ability to see through our goals.  Set the right goals, surround yourselves with people who persevere and adopt flexible approach at work.  Reflecting on problems, learning from them and actively trying to solve them helps in keeping our motivation high when it comes to solving them.

There is no age to develop “Grit”. We can start today and by constantly practicing all of the above develop what it takes to succeed!

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Mastery at Work – The Growth Mindset

Dr Dweck coined the terms “Fixed Mindset” and “Growth Mindset” after studying thousands of students. Some of us believe that success is based on the innate ability, that is basic qualities such as intelligence and talent are fixed traits and cannot be changed. this kind of mindset is known as “Fixed Mindset”.

While others believe that success is based on hard work, dedication, training and deliberate practice are believed to have the “growth mindset”.

These two schools of thought are known as “Fixed Theory of Intelligence” and the “Incremental Theory of Intelligence”.

How are these important from Mastery at Work point of view?

People with fixed mindsets believe that intelligence is static and cannot be increased. This results in them being wary of learning difficult tasks, inability to follow through and finish work if they encounter an obstacle, inability to put in extra efforts to get things done when they face challenges, inability to take criticism and lack of confidence at work. The end result of all of the above is inability to progress in career. It is also very surprising that as managers we also tend of believe that capability in some people is limited and we also do not instill growth mindset in this set of people.

There is also another group of people who are likely to fall into fixed mindset approach, surprisingly these are people who have been high achievers in their respective fields. Many leaders fall into fixed mindset approach and refuse to take feedback once they feel they have accomplished much more than others resulting in their downfall due to lack of ability to listen to feet on street, inability to take feedback from peers etc.

How is the employee with growth mindset different from the above two? An employee with growth mindset tends to learn new activities, takes up challenges willingly, will persist in case he encounters challenges and works around solutions to overcome obstacles he faces at work. He is open to feedback and sees feedback as an effective mechanism to grow, and will tend to find ways of working which have worked of his predecessors or mentors.

How to we instill growth mindset in children and in adults? The first step towards instilling growth mindset is the realization that “growth mindset” exists. Not many of us are aware that our brain is not plastic and is growing every second of our lives. Parents in particular play a very important role in teaching the child about the same. The second most influential person in a child’s life is teacher. The teachers need to instill growth mindset in children. They need to make the child acutely aware that with every new thing he is learning and every new task that he is undertaking his brain is growing and his ability is increasing tangentially.

If you are reading this article and wondering how to instill growth mindset in yourself? Then you need to remember that the key to succeeding at the developing growth mindset is trying harder at the task on hand and secondly trying new tasks. This means that we need to work more effectively at tasks on hand and try and avoid errors in our work (by thoroughly understanding what needs to be done) and also try to do new tasks. Take up something challenging at all times even if it means we encounter failure occasionally. We need to understand that even if we fail today, doing new activity will help us in strengthening our brain and gives us confidence.

The stepping stone to growth mindset begins with intense self-awareness, that is our capability to realize our strengths and our weakness very well. People with growth mindset generally eradicate their weaknesses by learning the tricks of the trade from their mentors in the field. Our brain is like a muscle which needs to be developed, this development is possible only through training it hard and working it out harder.

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