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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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