Is Your Grit Legit? The Importance Of Aligning Your Career Goals With Your Values

Some of us are born with Grit. As for the rest of us, we have to gain some Grit along our journey. But for all of us, there stands a roadblock to acquiring and maintaining Grit, and ultimately, to achieving the successes that we deserve.

This roadblock is enabled by a disconnect between our goals and our values, which gets validated by a culture that places emphasis on the material over the rational, and on “having it all’ over having what’s appropriate for us in our careers and family lives. In our pursuit to keep up with the Joneses, we’re fetishizing our aspirations and thereby sacrificing our Grit. The result, more often than not, is a life and career that lack direction, and are in danger of remaining in stagnation.

Let me share with you a true case study in Grit, which almost ended flatly, but was revived with a little creativity and the realignment of priorities.

The Lowdown

Rebecca (whose name has been changed to protect her privacy), a coaching client of mine, was referred to me because she aspired to become a partner at her professional services firm. This was an enormous opportunity for Rebecca to advance her career, as well as a great chance for me to work with someone who is motivated to stretch out of her comfort zone.

Our first meeting was a ‘discovery session’, wherein I asked questions to get a sense of Rebecca’s style, vision and level of Grit. It also informed us as to what she needed in order to accomplish her goals, and how success would feel once it arrived. I started by asking Rebecca why she chose to become a partner, to which she replied that she wanted the paycheck that came with the title. She supplemented her response by explaining that in her family, she is the main breadwinner, which allows her husband to keep a low-paying job that he loves. Sounded pretty straightforward. But as I soon would learn, getting her there was not so simple.

Exposing The Roadblock

During the third month of working with Rebecca, I found myself growing frustrated. Rebecca wasn’t doing the work we agreed upon in our sessions. I knew as a coach that it’s a client’s responsibility to be accountable for their own commitments. But as a mere mortal, I was feeling I had failed Rebecca. I needed to understand what her roadblock was without nagging or guilting her into staying focused. I also needed to understand that, since she works with professional services firms, Rebecca’s progress toward becoming partner has something in common with networking: it’s not always the most urgent thing on her to-do list. But unless she became motivated and intentional, she would ultimately not succeed in her quest for promotion.

Customizing The Incentive

As I asked questions to understand the mechanics and the mindset of Rebecca’s scheduling priorities, a lightbulb was ignited. Together, we pragmatically connected the potentially higher salary to family, instead of to material. In connection with Rebecca wanting to make more money so she could spend more time with her family, we were able to reframe her motivation for the promotion. The value of money wasn’t about stepping up to a BMW or feeding her 401K; it was now about being present with her family and enjoying their togetherness when she wasn’t at work. The additional income would let her hire a housekeeper, freeing her from getting caught up in perpetual chores and errands. She could also contract a specialist to help shepherd her through the daunting and ongoing New York City residents’ process of school searches. These two examples of tangible, seemingly urgent reasons for the promotion brought Rebecca right back on-track.

Today, eight months into our coaching contract, Rebecca is killing it! The visceral vision of what it will mean to have that extra income continues to keep her focused on the goal. Her promotion is in alignment with the value she places on being a mom and a wife, and she is now cloaked with the Grit to build the kind of future she desires and deserves.

Do you find that your intentions or resolutions are not being met? Do you question why you’ve chosen a specific goal? Why is a particular outcome important to you? That little word “why” carries a lot of swat when it comes to acquiring Grit. But even the worthiest intentions will not come to fruition if a great practice isn’t developed to propel you to your goals. We’ll look at this more closely in my next article exploring Grit.