Many people use the new year to establish priorities, set goals and launch personal development projects. “This time,” they say, “I’m really going to do it.” For most, those goals are forgotten before the first spring blossoms appear.
Too often, people believe they don’t have what it takes to accomplish what they need. Not enough time, not enough energy, not enough willpower, not enough patience. Or they become distracted by a new job, a new relationship or other opportunities that draw them away from the goals they had set for themselves.
What if the true secret to goal accomplishment is not having more time, more energy or more willpower in the face of attractive distractions? Maybe all we need is perseverance, the single-minded determination and “stick-to-it-iveness” to see a plan through to fruition.
Angela Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania psychology professor, began researching perseverance after she noticed that “tenacious dogged determination” was a common characteristic among hugely successful people from a variety of fields. Her “Grit” scale (after the John Wayne film, True Grit), which measures people’s perseverance toward long-term goals, suggests that successful people aren’t smarter or genetically endowed with capabilities that the rest of us don’t have. They just work harder and longer toward their goals. They are “grittier.”
Grit was the best determinant of who would make it through West Point Academy military training. National Spelling Bee contestants were more successful after slogging through more hours of practice, and grit is better than SAT scores or high school ranking at predicting college leaders. In general, grittier people attain higher levels of education. Once they choose a career, they stick with it longer, giving them greater opportunities for long-term success in their field.
You can develop this stamina–and accomplish your New Year’s resolutions this year—by following these simple tips.
• Remind yourself of your goals. Put a recurring appointment in your calendar so you check in with your progress every month. You can also publicly announce your goals via social media and encourage your friends to check in with you.
• Say no to distractions. You can do anything you want . . . you just can’t do everything you want.
• Believe in yourself. You are much more likely to stick to a goal that you believe you can accomplish. Belief and perseverance are powerful tools. Set goals and don’t be afraid to push yourself.
• Get emotional about it. Connect to the deeper meaning of the goal you’re pursuing. Passion fuels perseverance.
JEREMY MCCARTHY, director of global spa development and operations for Starwood Hotels, is expecting his second son in January. His long-term goal of raising two thriving boys requires a little extra grit. Read more of Jeremy’s writing at psychologyofwellbeing.com.