Learning about grit is probably one of the most effective lessons in my life so far. That, and learning about mindset. Over time, I have come to appreciate the role grit plays in our everyday life, and more so, for students.
Grit is basically about determination, passion and persistence. When these are applied, one can achieve goals over some times. Often, we fail at something not because we are not good at it, but because we fail to have grit. We give up way too early and lack the right amount of persistence and determination to get what we want.
If you are a student, grit is one of the elements you need to pass, hit your goals and achieve success. This is why I decided to write about how to develop grit for students. Before I get to it, let us look at the definition of grit for students.
Grit definition for students
In her book, Angela Duckworth defines grit as perseverance and passion for long term goals. She defines grit as the ability to stick to long term goals and the ability to keep going despite adversity. As a student, often your goals range from short term to long term. Many are those that are long term such as achieving a certain GPA at the end of the semester, achieving a great overall GPA as well as getting into the career you aim for.
How to grow grit for students
The younger you are, the easier it is to take up new habits and stick to them. Building grit is so much easier for kids so if you are reading this to help grow grit in elementary students, you are starting at the right time. You can instil a culture of persistence and determination early and in small steps and take on these traits into adulthood.
Change your mindset
According to the author of Mindset Carol Dweck, many of us tend to think that ability is fixed and that our hard work will not make any changes in our lives. This is especially relevant for students. A fixed mindset is when you believe that you are not smart enough and therefore working hard will not make you do better. On the same note, if you think that you are smart and don’t need to work hard, this is a fixed mindset too.
You must be wondering, what does mindset have to do with grit? Well, everything! To develop grit, you need to change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. If you believe you are smart and you don’t need to work hard as a student, you need to change this mindset. This kind of thinking will keep you from welcoming challenges since you think failing at challenges makes you look bad. So what do you do when things get tough? You quit. You give up.
Similar, if you don’t think you are smart enough, you have a fixed mindset. You see no point in working hard since you believe that no matter how hard you try, you can never be good enough at what you do. With such a mindset, it is difficult to develop grit because you constantly think, “well, what’s the point in trying? I’ll never be good at this!”
On the other hand, when you have a growth mindset, you believe that ability is not fixed. You believe that you can work hard and achieve what you want. Such a mindset will help you develop grit since you will persist even when things get tough. You will not shy away from challenges but instead, you will take up challenges as an opportunity to learn.
Narrow down on one thing and pursue it
To develop grit as a student, you need to pick areas of focus and concentrate on them. you can only be gritty and persistent on something if you are interested in it and if you focus your energy on it. You cannot achieve grit if your attention is all over the place. Sometimes, you need to pick an area and focus. This way, you practice more and focus more time on this area, hence you persist even when it is tough because the more you are at it the better you get at it. Remember, grit is about persisting on one goal over a long time, and you really cannot spend a long time on something if you have a dozen of other things that you are pursuing.
Repetition is the mother of skill
In her book, Grit, Angela Duckworth calls this deliberate practice. I have discussed more on deliberate practice in my summary of the book Peak. Once you pick up an area you are interested in, you need to practice and not for the sake of practice, but deliberately. For a student, this could be picking the areas you want to major in and focusing your study practices in these areas. You can use the guidance of a teacher/professor to help you focus your interest on the areas that matter.
The more you deliberately practise something, the better you get at it and the more you are likely to develop grit. Remember grit is about persistence and you are likely to persist more in an area that you are good at, and you become good through practice.
Develop good habits
While working on developing grit as an adult, you need to develop good habits. Persistence and determination have to be accompanied by discipline. if you want to achieve a certain GPA, then you need to develop good study habits and not just rush to read when the test is close.
In his book, Deep Work, Cal Newport discusses how you can develop good concentration habits so that you are less distracted and able to focus more. Creating study rituals for example can help you develop a habit to practise your skill, get better at it and achieve what you want.
Don’t fear failure
As I mentioned earlier, one of the elements of a fixed mindset (and an enemy of grit) is being afraid to fail. Unfortunately, many of us were brought up in environments that associate failure with shame. We are so afraid that if we fail we will look bad and we would do anything not to fail at anything. Since we are so convinced that if we try we are going to fail, we stop trying. We are afraid of looking foolish for trying so hard and failing so we choose not to try.
If we fear failure this way, we cannot develop grit. Grit comes from learning to fail, and getting up and trying again. Think of a child that is learning how to work. This child falls over and over and decides, “Well, maybe walking is just not for me”. This child tries over and over until they become good at it. For you to develop grit as a student, you need to be like this child. So you failed math but you need it for your career. You try over and over until you become good at it, with no shame.
Find a purpose
If you are in school for the sake of being in school, then you will not develop grit. You need a purpose to develop grit. As a student, you need to have something you are aiming at; a dream career, self-employment, something that gives you purpose. Students that know what they are working towards developing more grit than those who have no real purpose.
Grit cannot be grown overnight. Developing grit is a process. Give it time, take the necessary steps and watch it fall in place. The older you become, the grittier you become and since you will not be a student for the rest of your life, focus on working on your grit for the whole time you are a student.