Continuing our series on resilience, this article looks at the skill of tenacity. This is one of six skills that build resilience.
Vision – Like a compass, providing purpose and direction
Composure – Managing emotions related to stress
Reasoning – Problem-solving
Tenacity – Persevering, learning from successes and setbacks
Collaboration – Reaching out for support
Health – Maintaining healthy habits
What makes success?
There is a range of personal qualities that might be considered ingredients for success in different fields. These include intelligence, creativity, self-confidence, emotional intelligence, charisma, physical attractiveness. However, a long-standing question has been: why do some individuals accomplish more than others of equal talent and ability? Research has shown that there is one quality that stands
out - grit.
Grit is the ability to persevere. This involves having the staying power to work toward goals and maintain effort and interest, despite setbacks and plateaus in progress. It’s similar to the difference between running a 100-metre race, compared to a marathon. One relies on speed; the other relies on stamina. The gritty individual stays the course, rather than getting bored and giving up.
Grit is more important than intelligence or talent, to success. A study of high achievers in chess, music and the visual arts found that over ten years of deliberate daily practice set expert performers apart. 20 years of dedicated practice was the most reliable predictor of world-class achievement. In education, determination, capacity for hard work and follow-through have been found to be more reliable in predicting achievement, than intelligence alone.
Skills that build grit – optimism, handling mistakes, perseverance
Optimism – The idea that “I can be whoever I want to be” is not particularly helpful. Optimism is about having a realistic sense of a) what is possible and b) what effort will be needed to achieve the desired result. Realistic optimism is about being hopeful, but still acknowledging difficulties that will need to be overcome. Being overly optimistic can be as detrimental as being pessimistic because it means that our imagination is out-pacing reality.
Handling mistakes – Our beliefs about mistakes are crucial to whether we are likely to keep going or give up. The belief that mistakes mean failure prevents us from identifying missing pieces of information that provide important clues to the steps needed to get back on course. It also leads to discouragement. Denying or ignoring mistakes has the same effect because it doesn’t allow the underlying problem to surface. Handling mistakes requires a learning mindset that sees mistakes and setbacks as an opportunity for learning, rather than cause for making a negative judgement about ourselves.
Perseverance – Perseverance is about persisting through setbacks and failure. Research with children as young as one year old has shown that children take cues from adults about the value of persistence. As children observe how adults around them work toward goals and deal with difficulties, they make assumptions that form the basis of their own beliefs about the value of hard work and what is involved in reaching goals. In this way, parents can shape the assumptions that children have about what success means. This can prepare them to anticipate failures, setbacks and maintain follow-through.
Other resilience skills – Tenacity works hand in hand with vision, composure and reasoning (see previous issues for information on these). In the face of setbacks, vision helps to motivate by reminding us of our goals. Composure helps us to calm our emotions. Reasoning helps us take a step back to reflect and identify any changes that need to be made. When used together, these skills help to maintain a sense of control and direction to keep moving forward.
Anne Ward is an executive coach and principal psychologist of Mindinsight, providing coaching and psychology services to individuals and organisations. Visit www.mindinsight.com.au or phone 4942 7660 for more information.