Kid's Health topics

MINDSET MATTERS: HEY TEENS, IT’S TIME TO GET GRITTY

Author: Dr. Jenni Silva

Clinical Psychologist at Brilliant Minds Psychology

What If I told you that IQ / cognitive ability or talent is not the main factor that determines success? And, in fact it is perseverance or grit?  Did you know that grittier teens are more likely to graduate or succeed?  Psychologist and researcher Angela Duckworth found that grit is usually unrelated to measures of talent… interesting… !! This blog is about helping you develop Grit… so let’s get started. 

What is Grit?

Grit is defined as the ability to stick to the things that are important to you, to overcome these and accomplish what matters to you, even when things get tough.  It is seeing challenges as something to overcome rather than a reason for giving up. As you may have gathered, grit is important when it comes to achieving your goals. Resilience is another term sometimes interchangeable used with Grit.  Resilience is the ability to cope with adversity and to bounce back, so I guess resilience is an essential ingredient in those with GRIT.

Angela Duckworth a psychologist in her book ‘Grit’ describes grit as “passion and perseverance for long- term and meaningful goals.” It’s about having commitment and direction.  Grit is also about perseverance, that means sticking it out. It means bouncing back and sticking it out even when you fail and fail or don’t achieve over and over, you continue to stick it out.  In short Grit = Effort.

As Duckwork says, although Talent is important, without effort or grit talent is just an unmet potential….  It is with effort that is important!!

Do You Need Grit in all Situations?

Most of us are not gritty in all situations, well I am certainly not!  It depends on what it is. For example, I have always been gritty when it comes to my work, wanting to help others and learning, however when it comes to exercise…well let’s say Grit has packed its bag and gone on holidays. In the Grit Teen Workbook (Reference below) it talks about 5 domains of grit including Academic Grit (studying, homework etc), Social Grit,  Wellness Grit (i.e., sleeping well, eating well, sticking to exercise etc), extracurricular grit (sport, art, etc) and emotional grit (i.e., controlling your emotions instead of them controlling you, facing your fears, coping with anger, anxiety etc).  So it’s about thinking where you want to become more grittier and why that is important to you.

Why Get Gritty?

To become grittier, it will require some reflection and thought… Ask yourself the question: Where do I want to become more grittier and WHY? Asking yourself WHY is important, if you believe in the benefit of your goal and you believe the effort is worth it then the chance you will achieve this goal is high.

I’ve listed 5 tips below to help you get started on becoming more gritty.

5 Ways to Get Gritty 

Tip 1: Develop a Growth Mindset (Dweck)

Carol Dweck a Sanford University psychologist describes a Growth Mindset as the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed and with effort this can change based on our efforts. Dweck talks about the power of ‘Yet’. We know from the research that  having a growth mind-set is one of the keys to building grit. Here’s an example of a Fixed versus a Growth Mindset:I can’t do this math sum (Fixed Mindset = is absolute and implies you will never get it) opposed to a Growth-mindset such as “I can’t do this math sum yet… but I with effort, I can learn”

Tip 2: Helpful thoughts, Be Aware of those Thinking Traps

Mind set… the way we think about things, is very powerful!  It is important to become aware of your own thinking and whether this is helpful or unhelpful.

For example do you catastrophise, mind read, engage in all or nothing thinking?  See the attached link on the Unhelpful thinking Styles, go through the list and tick the ones that you find your mind getting stuck on.   

Next time you get stuck on unhelpful thoughts ask yourself, What is another way that is more helpful to think about this?”

https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/~/media/CCI/Mental%20Health%20Professionals/Depression/Depression%20-%20Information%20Sheets/Depression%20Information%20Sheet%20-%2011-%20Unhelpful%20Thinking%20Styles.pdf

Tip 3:  Optimism

Did you know that Optimists are more likely to see bad things happening as temporary and not a personal reflection of their ability, for example making a mistake is just a mistake not an estimate or reflection of their ability to do well.. e.g., I did poorly on this math test but that doesn’t mean I won’t do well on the next exam. Compared to a pessimistic style which sounds something like “I did poorly on my math test, that means I am hopeless /bad at maths” (e.g., it is personal and persistent/or a fixated mindset).  You can see the optimistic style will encourage persistence and effort whereas the pessimistic thinking style would more than likely result in low motivation and low effort.

Tip 4: Behaviour

Mindset alone is not enough, we also have to get into action! For example, if you want to do well academically, let’s say you are motivated.. motivation alone won’t be enough, you also need to get into action with your behaviour and start studying, going to Math tutoring and studying more.  (I wrote this part about my Grade 9 son… hahaha).  What can help here is aiming for the GoldiLocks Level – (see Grit Workbook for Teens) that is not too hard, not to easy… just right, this is important especially when you are starting out. Break a larger goal into small goals that are manageable.

Tip 5: Build Confidence

There are lots of different things you can try to help build your confidence. Remember adolescence is a period of development where self-identity is developing.  It can be easy to compare yourself to peers or others on social media that seem to have perfect lives, however, this is mostly unlikely the case.  Okay here we go..

  • Write a list of the things you are proud of and continue to add to this list, whether it is handling a social situation really well such as solving a conflict, or getting a good grade on a test, learning to cook …whatever it is, if you are proud of it… Add it to the list.
  • Use positive self-talk, optimism and a growth mindset
  • Get regular exercise – it’s really good for you 

Well that’s it from me, I hope you found this article helpful. For more reading on Grit checkout ‘Grit’ by Angela Duckworth and the ‘Grit Workbook for Teens’.

By for now, Dr. Jenni

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