Grit – the Hard Thing Rule

Last week, thanks to The School of Life (TSOL) I was lucky enough toGRIT.JPG be in the same room as one of my (#nerdalert) academic idols. Amassing degrees from Harvard, Oxford and UPenn, Angela Duckworth completed her PhD under the tutelage of Marty Seligman, and is well on the way to cementing her place as Psychology royalty.

Her specialty is GRIT, the crossroad of passion and perseverance, a magical place where talent no longer drives success, but is replaced in earnest by deliberate practice. As with any academic theory, there are naysayers and evangelists. However one takeaway for me, from both the book and the workshop, is the ‘Hard Thing Rule’.

What is it? Well, in a nutshell it is a challenge to engage in the deliberate practice (actually putting in effort to improve, refer diagram below) of one hard thing, for at least one year.

Deliberate Practice.JPG

A year can seem like AGES (I know, I’m like one of the dogs in up, so I feel ya). The key here is to break down the year in to milestones (e.g. run for 5 minutes in one go) or time-based lots (e.g. 4 or 8 week plans). If you need extra motivation, try visualising yourself in one years’ time, having completed a year of deliberate practice. How does it feel? What does it look like? Who’s help do you need to get there?

This last question is one of my passions. How relationships, the people and environment around us influence our experiences. While the research on GRIT and relationships is still young, the paragons of GRIT that Angela interviewed in her book all reiterated the importance of support. So, find a few cheerleaders for your hard thing, and at the same time make sure you’re a cheerleader for someone else too!

So, what’s your one hard thing? I’d love to hear about it!

I’ve written a bit about my hard thing below, if you’re interested, keep reading! As for this photo, it was taken at Andy’s graduation dinner in September 2015. The message is in Maori and translates to ‘stay strong’, rather appropriate for a post about GRIT.

kia kaha

My hard thing right now is Psychological research. It’s been my hard thing for a while. With an undergraduate degree in Psychology, I was eager to complete more study in the growing field of Positive Psychology (PP), the science of human flourishing. At the time the only course specific to this was at UPENN,and in no way was this an option for a 21 year old from NZ eager to work and with a student loan to payoff.

Fortunately for me, a few years later in mid-2013, I heard Dianne Vella-Brodrick talk at the NZAPP conference about a new MAPP program starting at the University of Melbourne, a more feasible commute from Auckland. I was accepted in to their second cohort and started studying part-time (while working full-time) in March 2014 doe-eyed and ready to bring PP to the world of work!

Fast-forward 6 months and I was putting my studies on hold to relocate to the UK for Andy to complete his MBA, a full-throttle one year course in Oxford. Throughout the MBA I worked in London, commuting 3-4hours most days and doing my best to apply my learnings to date to both my work and life, at times succeeding and at times enjoying the combination of weekends of terrible British weather and Poldark marathons thanks to fantastic British TV.

Part of the negotiations prior to moving to the UK was that when Andy finished his full-time course, I’d pick mine up again full-time (budget willing). Finally, in December 2015 after hundreds* of emails, several meetings and many hours of deliberation, I transferred my study to University of East London, to their MAPPCP course. So now, mid-2016 and in the throes of ethics drafts and proposal re-writes, sitting in a workshop with Angela Duckworth I realised: I am gritty and I love my hard thing! I am surrounded by cheerleaders both in the UK and afar which makes the hard, frustrating times of my deliberate practice bearable and the fun times, well, fun!

*slight exaggeration

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