Motivation And Grit What Motivates Us To Keep Going

Patrick Sheehan is a clinical psychologist at RWA Psychology – Family Matters

Have you presumed that you are a lazy person? Do you ever think that you lack the toughness to keep persevering on important tasks?

Data from Angela Duckworth’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania has looked at what qualities and behaviours can be targeted when perseverance gets tough – she calls this grit. The findings do not seem to support the idea that some people are just tougher, more hardened up, and have greater willpower. Instead, there appears to be much more nuance to what helps us persevere.

Duckworth finds 4 qualities that provide the foundation of grit.

1. The area you pursue in some way has to be interesting for your brain:

You have to at least have some interest in what you are pursuing in order to cultivate grit. And rather than taking the approach that ‘I need to think about what interests me’, it may be more fruitful experiment in trying new things, and cultivate your curiosity first rather than define your passions beforehand.

2. You develop from your interest a love of practice:

People who possess grit in learning a language, a new area of study, or a new skill become highly focused on the art of life-long learning. They are open to looking at their blind spots and areas needing improvement. For these areas they take an attitude that their skill and expertise is always in development. In short, they learn to love practice.

3. When it gets tough, come back to the bigger picture:

Knowing how your work affects others is important. Does what you are working on in any tiny way assist the minds, the stress, or the state of others in the world (or the world itself for that matter) in some tiny way? For example, comedian Scott Aukerman stated that when hearing listeners of his comedy podcast say to him “you help me get through my work day”, that this is one of the most important things to hear in his line of work.

4. Hope

‘Gritty hope’ is staying in touch with the idea that one’s future can be better, not as a result entirely of the universe changing, but rather as a result of cultivating better ways of living and relating to the world. Grit has very little to do with luck, and more to do with acting opposite to thoughts and feelings of helplessness.

The lovely thing about the idea of grit is that it can be applied to so many areas in life. Personally, I recently went from a struggling swimmer to completing my first ocean swimming event using these ideas. Time will tell if grit development has a positive impact on our working lives, our hobbies, and our sense of ourselves as creatures constantly in development.

Source: Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. Scribner: New York, NY.

Patrick Sheehan is clinical psychologist who works with adults and adolescents. He runs training programs at The University of Sydney assisting students to respond effectively to friends in crisis or distress. Call RWA psychology for an appointment with Patrick or one of our other psychologists.

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