The Glory of Grit: Keeping Tenacity and a Growth Mindset in Your Toolbox

When I think of GRIT, it takes the form of someone running towards a finish line, with sweat on her face, but determination in her eyes. To complete the analogy based on DRIVEN’s exploration of Grit, perhaps this woman’s greater goal in running the marathon was not so much to cross it off her bucket list as it was to keep in alignment with her foundational values of healthful eating and exercise.

After creating her Grit roadmap, she embedded progressive, intentional practices into her weeks as she followed a training program. From there, she found herself at the starting line of the marathon, poised with an ambitious eye on the finish line. But what happens if she hits the 18th mile with blisters on her feet and a cramp in her leg, feeling undeniably exhausted? This is where she must supplement her Grit with a special kind of drive. It’s called tenacity, which, combined with a growth mindset, is your driver in business goals.

The Path To A Growth Mindset

Good old tenacity, which is the ability to sustain interest and effort towards long-term goals, is a supreme asset to a business professional. It implies some extent of self-control and the capacity to defer short-term gratification. For some, a tenacious mindset comes easily, particularly when their goal is held in great regard. For others, tenacity is a challenge, as is the move forward toward that goal.

During a marathon, the runner’s tenacity might arrive through visualization, or the crowd cheering her on, or even just rocking out to some energizing music. In business, as you hit lulls, speed bumps, or full-on roadblocks, a growth mindset can prove to be the tenacity tool that keeps you truckin’.

The great news about a growth mindset is that we all have access to this free, built-in service. To opt in, simply choose to adopt it. The concept is straightforward: In life or in business, we are continuously “on our way” to a goal, and part of this journey is perpetual growth and learning. Ironically, some folks are in such a hurry to get there, that when they arrive (as with a promotion, a new job, a marriage, a baby), they realize that it’s just a stage in an even longer journey. A partner at a financial services firm whom I recently interviewed put it succinctly: “I thought becoming Partner was my ultimate peak, whereas I was only one-third of the way up the mountain.”

When this long-range growth approach is adopted and embedded into your DNA as a mindset, something magical happens: when you fail, you learn to consider the effort a failure, not yourself. But sadly, those with a fixed mindset keep getting beaten down when they don’t live up to expectations— those of others, or their own.

Curiosity Seals The Deal

The trick to remaining tenacious and staying in growth mindset character is to continue to be curious. For example, when you fail, ask yourself, “How will I do it differently next time?”. Likewise, when it comes to challenges, those with a fixed mindset may steer clear or give up easily, where as those who choose to adopt a growth mindset realize that stretching out of one’s comfort zone and taking risks are healthy paths to progress.

When you join the ranks of the growth mindset militia, you’ll begin to welcome criticism. I, for one, LOVE feedback, realizing that such curiosity is the only way I can grow professionally. The other energizing characteristic of those with a growth mindset is that when others succeed, instead of being jealous or resentful, we find inspiration. We study what they did well and borrow those techniques to “up our own game”.

Now, Mind You…

All this hype about a growth mindset may leave you feeling that it’s a bit mystical or new-agey. But be assured: the effects are real on a brain science level. Check out this outstanding, 10-minute TED Talk by Carolyn Dweck, the woman who is responsible for research and development on the growth mindset. Watch specifically for the image of your brain and how it “lights up” differently when you think with a growth mindset rather than a fixed one. It’s evidence of how your brain is literally more active when you think about how you can get better, instead of feeling defensive, vulnerable and threatened.

In my follow-up to this article, I’ll take you in for a closer look at the brain chemistry behind tenacity and the growth mindset. It’s science, baby!