Get Your Grit On

Over the past 2 years, I’ve been working toward achieving a fitness goal of reducing my body fat to 17%. When I started this journey in November of 2016, my body fat was at 29.7%. Last week, I finally achieved my goal and I’ve been thinking a lot about all of the hard work and time I’ve invested in making this goal.

It wasn’t easy. In fact, I had a nasty shoulder injury that prevented me from doing much of any lifting last winter. (Plus, I developed a pretty lousy attitude for a while and gained some weight back as a result.) Today, I’m still learning to cope with my SLAP tear and I continue to make time to get to the gym on a regular basis.

I wanted to dedicate today’s topic to grit because I think it’s a really important ingredient in helping us achieve our goals. While grit isn’t the only factor that determines success, I fully believe it’s a necessary one.

According to Angela Duckworth, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, grit is even more important than intelligence and skills in predicting individual success. It’s the combination of passion and persistence over time that really sets people apart — those who reach their goals and those who don’t.

Want to find out how gritty you are? You can take the grit scale for your individual score. If your score isn’t what you had hoped today, there’s great news because Duckworth believes (and I agree with her) that everyone has the potential to improve their grittiness if they have the desire to do so.

Why should you care? Because gritty people tend to be more successful and happier with the circumstances of their lives. And couldn’t we all benefit from those things?

Here’s how to grow your grit:

Set a goal and stick to it. Simply setting a goal isn’t enough to work on developing your grit and it won’t work for just any old goal. This goal needs to be something in which you have a genuine interest and it needs to be personally meaningful to you. These components are important because they are what define passion and grit has everything to do with passion that drives us forward over time.

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It could be a goal related to your health (like mine) or it may be a goal for your career or education or any other meaningful goal. It should be something that will take some time (probably several months or even years) and will give you a sense of purpose. Chances are, you already have a goal that you’re working towards, but it’s important to actually articulate that goal and to start thinking about the actions you will need to take in order to reach it.

Avoid getting sidetracked. It can be easy to get deterred by new interests or goals. While we will always have things to balance in our lives (like time with our families, work assignments, hobbies, etc.), it’s important to set our focus on what’s most important and commit to staying on course towards our overarching goal. Some things that can help us do this include:

Setting benchmarks along the way. If your long term goal is Z, then think through the required steps A, B, C, and so on to get you to goal Z. These are short term goals or bench marks that will help keep you on track along the way. Once you have a list of short term goals, you can create a timeline.

For instance, if your goal is to buy a house in 5 years, you need to figure out how much money you will need to save for a down payment. Let’s say you want to put $20,000 down. That means you need to save $4,000 per year and approximately $333 each month. If you get paid biweekly, you will need to designate $167 from each paycheck in order to reach your goal in 5 years.

It’s relatively easy to do this with numbers, but you can actually break down any big goal into smaller measurable goals (if you’re really stumped, feel free to write me a note in the comments section below and I will do my best to offer some suggestions).

Checking your progress regularly. If you’ve created a detailed timeline with bench marks, it will be easy to check your progress. It’s best to make this a regular habit so that it’s at the forefront of our minds. I would recommend checking in on a weekly basis (if possible) to see if you’re making the progress you had hoped.

If not, consider if this is something you can change. For instance, okay- I didn’t do all that well this week, but I will definitely do better next week because I’m going to commit to doing (whatever you need to do to make next week’s goal). Or, it may be that you’ve made your short term goals a bit too difficult and you may need to adjust (extend) your timeline to make these goals more achievable.

Seeing your goal through to the end. Don’t’ despair if you need to make adjustments or changes to your goals along the way. This is a normal part of the process and it does not indicate your success or failure. Sometimes, we will find that our long-term goal has evolved or that it is simply not possible because of new circumstance. In these cases, we can revise our long-term goal as needed. Then, repeat the process of creating benchmarks and a timeline.

Remember, grit is indicated by passion and persistence over time which means your commitment is what really counts – not how quickly you achieve your goal or how few times you adjust your goal or that you envision exactly the same outcome throughout the process. In fact, your goal will almost certainly be impacted by unforeseen circumstances because that’s how real life is – unpredictable.

Don’t be discouraged by setbacks. Resilience is perhaps the most important characteristic of grittiness. Acknowledging that setbacks and challenges are likely to occur can help us be more adaptable and readily able to navigate them when they occur. Instead of viewing setbacks as failures, we can recognize them as learning opportunities. In fact, they are normal and necessary to our personal growth and development – it’s literally how we learn. (e.g., “Well that didn’t work, so now I’m going to try this approach instead.”).

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When we face setbacks, it’s best to take a step back and look at the big picture. Think about what needs to change in order for progress to occur. And sometimes, we may need to actually give up a goal. For instance, if continuing to pursue it would be detrimental as in continuing to pour money into a failed business venture. Or if we’ve decided that this is no longer a goal worth pursuing. This could occur when choosing to make a major career change, for example.

Even in such cases, we can immediately begin recreating a revised long term goal. Just because we abandon one goal, doesn’t mean we’re not still working towards something.

Be diligent and hardworking. Maybe these seem obvious, but actually being dedicated to our goals and putting in the quality of work required to achieve them are just as important as the rest of the process. It isn’t enough to simply set goals and then hope we make them.

We have to set ourselves up for success by committing to do the work. This may mean carving out time to work on our goals each day or each week (like actually putting it on your calendar). It may mean that we need to go talk to others who have already achieved similar goals to find out how they did it. Whatever the case, taking action is absolutely required – and it’s often the hardest step.

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Take some time to consider how you can help ensure you will actually do what you need to do. Having accountability in some way can be particularly meaningful. I did this by working out two times a week with a trainer. Not only did this help me meet my goals, it ensured that at least twice each week I would physically be at the gym to workout.

Find a gritty mentor. Finding a mentor can be extremely worthwhile. According to Duckworth, mentors should provide both challenge and support. Without both of these components, we are likely to become discouraged or complacent. For example, if my trainer always told me I could do better and never praised my progress, I would quickly become frustrated. In the same way, if my trainer never challenged me to try harder and always just told me how awesome I am, I would quickly lose motivation to work harder.

Your mentor can be pretty much anyone – a colleague, a friend, a family member. He or she should be a gritty person as well which is indicated by their passion and persistence to a long-term goal. Generally, highly successful people are gritty, so try to find someone you view as successful and who will provide both challenge and support for you.

Final Thoughts

Grit is something that tends to change over time based on the circumstances of our lives and our focused effort at a given time. Recognize that it’s okay to be a work-in-progress – really, we all are. 🙂 It’s about practicing in order to grow your personal grittiness.

You can read a lot more about grit from leading expert, Angela Duckworth, in her book: Grit

I would love to hear about your own meaningful long-term goals and welcome you to share them (or any other questions or comments) in the comments section below.

References

Belli, G. (2018). How to develop grit. PayScale. Retrieved November 16, 2018, from https://www.payscale.com/career-news/2018/03/how-to-develop-grit

Duckworth, A. (2018). Q&A. Angela Duckworth. https://angeladuckworth.com/qa/

Koehn, N. (2018). Resilience won’t just be there when you need it. You have to train it. Big Think. Retrieved November 16, 2018, from https://bigthink.com/videos/nancy-koehn-resilience-wont-just-be-there-when-you-need-it-you-have-to-train-it

Lebowitz, S. (2016). A UPenn psychologist says ‘grit’ is key to success in life – here’s how to become a grittier person. Business Insider. Retrieved November 16, 2018, from
https://www.businessinsider.com/angela-duckworth-how-to-become-a-grittier-person-2016-5

Photo Credits (in order of appearance)

  1. Top of the Morning, Photo by Francisco Gonzalez on Unsplash
  2. Planner and coffee, Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash
  3. Woman, Photo by Soragrit Wongsa on Unsplash
  4. Climbing, Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash

How to Avoid Burning Bridges

Just last week I had a chance encounter with a former employer (who I should note I sincerely enjoyed working for). She was clearly as delighted as I by the meeting and readily offered to rehire me in her new role which allows her to oversee a significantly larger region than previously.

While I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to pursue her offer, the exchange was a great reminder of how important it is not to burn bridges when we leave an employer (because you never know if you may be working with them again in the future, if for no other reason!).

I also thought this would make an excellent follow up post to last week’s discussion of Networking Strategies, because creating connections is only a small part of building your network — it’s also important to both maintain those relationships and to avoid damaging them (aka burning bridges) whenever possible.

Here are some of my best tips for how to avoid burning bridges when you leave an employer:

Keep it professional. Pretty much everyone I know has had a ‘bad boss’ at some point in their career. And if you have been fortunate enough to escape this experience, consider yourself lucky.  (Total side note: I’m actually doing research with some colleagues about abusive supervisors and what makes people continue to work for them despite their bad behavior. — IT. IS. SO. FASCINATING. And, I would love to geek out with you if you ever want to talk more about this. 🙂 )

If you’re among the majority, there’s a chance you’ve even fantasized about resigning and telling your boss just how much you have hated working for him or her. And then you probably envisioned you would storm out of their office and skip merrily away into the sunset, right? While I absolutely see the appeal, I’m going to caution you against making things personal (even though you may have completely real and legitimate reasons) when leaving your job.

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Instead, try to focus on what you’re gaining professionally by moving into your new position. For instance, your new employment may provide opportunities for upward mobility that aren’t available within your current organization. Or, it may offer more flexible working hours, or the option to work from home — which could be especially important if you’re planning to go back to school. Or, it may just be that changing employers will provide you with an immediate pay increase and/or a better benefits package. These are all completely respectable reasons for leaving a job and will likely leave your employer with a more positive impression of you (than in the previous scenario).

In addition to focusing on your professional goals and opportunities, it’s important to give adequate notice of your intent to resign. Don’t leave your employer in a difficult situation by telling them today is your last day. And please, do not tell them you are quitting in a text (this is the social equivalent of breaking up with someone via text and it is totally not okay – in either case!). Instead, provide a formal resignation letter and give at least 2 weeks’ notice. Keep your letter brief and to the point and avoid venting your personal grievances. If your employer offers an exit interview, you may choose to address any issues at that time (or you might consider bringing your concerns to your employer’s attention before you resign so that they actually have an opportunity to do something about it).

Express your gratitude. Has anyone helped you along the way while at your current place of employment? The answer is almost definitely a resounding yes! So, say thank you to those who helped train you, mentor you, assisted you, covered for you when you were gone, and so on. Also, consider thanking your boss or supervisor, especially if you’ve developed a good working relationship with this person. It’s not all that common to actually like the people you work with (sadly), so if the culture of your workplace has rocked, you should make a point of letting those people know!

Saying thank you doesn’t have to be elaborate — You could take some of your colleagues to lunch or maybe throw a small farewell event after hours. A simple handwritten note can also go a long way. You could send a basket of fruit, or flowers, or bring homemade cookies to your office. It doesn’t have to be much, but taking the time to actually show your gratitude can have a huge impact. And honestly, people have a tendency to sort of light up when you let them know how much you’ve enjoyed working with them – which can be so gratifying to witness (because of all the good feels)!

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Assist with the transition. It  can be hard to find an adequate replacement (especially if you’re really good at what you do!). You can help make the transition smoother for your colleagues and all others involved by assisting in this process. Your employer may even invite you to help interview potential candidates (which really, who better than you to help find your replacement – you know exactly what this job takes!). If possible, you could offer to assist with training or other transitional procedures.

It’s also a good idea to tie up any loose ends prior to your last day. For example, you may want to let your clients know you’re leaving and introduce them to a colleague who will be available to assist them during the interim. Be sure to delegate any incomplete work and give colleagues a status update for any ongoing work – including important upcoming deadlines they should know about.

If it’s possible and you’re willing, it’s also good practice to make yourself available after leaving (at least for a short period) to answer questions (like sharing the password to an account that may need to be accessed after you leave). It may not be ideal, but I just think it’s best not to be a jerk to people, especially if it really doesn’t take much effort on your part (like answering a quick question over the phone).

I hope it goes without saying, but part of helping with this transitional process also means not checking out early. It’s easy to get a sort of  “senior-itis”  when you’re nearing the end of your term and getting all pumped up to start that new position.  Remember, your colleagues aren’t leaving for a new and exciting opportunity – they’re staying behind after you leave. So pay them the common courtesy of doing your job and remaining present until you’re actually done.

Avoid badmouthing. You may not like everyone you’ve ever worked with, but badmouthing them or your organization is simply in poor taste. It will not impress your new employer to talk about all of the faults of your previous boss or to list all of the problems within your former organization (in fact, it may do exactly the opposite and cause them to take pause in hiring you).

You definitely can and should use your knowledge and previous experiences to help you in your new role. However, doing so likely won’t require you to provide detailed explanations that could be potentially embarrassing or even damaging for others. In general, I think it’s best to keep those stories to yourself.

If you happen to be in a position where sharing these experiences (e.g., cautionary tales) could actually be valuable to others and provide teachable moments – like as an educator – you can still do so without causing harm. Simply removing the names of actual people, places, organizations, etc. can make your stories totally shareable without the risk of badmouthing. This is something I frequently did as an instructor when sharing  my own experiences to help protect the identity of individuals (and because it wasn’t at all important to the lesson I was teaching).

Respect your former employer. If you worked with a team of people you just loved because they were amazing and innovative individuals (like many of the people I’ve worked with), you may be tempted to entice them to move with you to your new organization. While you may truly have their best interest at heart, realize that poaching your colleagues from your former employer is not a very good practice and it will probably be noticed.

Allow for adequate time to pass after you’ve started your new position before contacting former colleagues about potential opportunities with your new employer. Also, be aware that doing so is likely to get back to other former colleagues who may be hurt that you didn’t think of them!

I generally think a better practice is to offer information only when it is requested. If your former colleagues see that the move you made was an awesome decision for you, they’re likely to ask you about potential opportunities for employment and that’s an excellent invitation to share this information without coming across as pushy or threatening. I also think it just shows that you have enough respect for your previous organization not (attempt) to steal employees away from them.

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Final Thoughts

I love the bridge metaphor because ‘burning a bridge’ means you won’t have the option of crossing it again in the future – it’s simply gone. However, working to maintain the bridges you’ve created will allow you to keep them open for potential opportunities down the road.

Most of the practices I’ve mentioned have a lot to do with common courtesy and professionalism. If you place your focus on these, I think you will find that your resignation will be better received by those you’re leaving.

Remember, your boss and colleagues are human beings (even if they’re not always you’re favorite people to work with). If you show them respect, it is more likely to be reciprocated.

 

References

Kleiman, J. & Hedges, K. (2011). How to avoid burning bridges in the workplace. Forbes. Retrieved November 8, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2011/01/07/how-to-avoid-burning-bridges-in-the-workplace/#7e76b41853cc

Rasmussen, D. (2015). 6 ways to avoid burning bridges by leaving a job. Work It Daily. Retrieved November 5, 2018, from https://www.workitdaily.com/burning-bridges-job-avoid/

Team Synergis. (2018). How to avoid burning bridges. Synergis. Retrieved November 5, 2018, from https://www.synergishr.com/how-to-avoid-burning-bridges/

Photo Credits (in order of appearance)

  1. Bridge, Photo by Matthew Ronder-Seid on Unsplash
  2. Ready, Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
  3. Typewriter and hands, Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
  4. Rope Bridge, Photo by Michel Paz on Unsplash