It’s a common misconception that the trajectory of goal fulfillment travels in a straight line. People are actually surprised when the cause they believe in so deeply and the targets they thought through so keenly meet repeated frustration and delay. But that’s not the way goals work.
Here’s the truth about goal fulfillment: it doesn’t really happen on the mountaintop, but in the valley. It doesn’t take place in the light, but in the darkness. It’s forged in adversity. To fulfill any worthwhile, meaningful goal you must possess a drive and determination to overcome obstacles in the way.
In short, you must have grit.
Not the grit of a gunslinger that the young Mattie Ross found in an aging “Rooster” Cogburn in the recent Coen brothers’ re-make, True Grit. But the grit that researcher Dr. Angela Duckworth defines as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” According to her research, this kind of grit outperforms both talent and intelligence in activities as diverse as graduating from military school and competing in the National Spelling Bee.
Here’s an eight-point gut-check for grit. Honesty answer each question:
- Do you seek out greater and greater challenges, always pressing the edges of the envelope?
- Do you welcome adversity as a way to make you stronger? Do you “embrace the beast” as ultra-marathoner Lisa Smith-Batchen would put it?
- Do you declare your goals to family and friends, colleagues and coworkers, creating public accountability for your actions?
- Do you maintain internal emotional equilibrium in spite of the external circumstances of your life?
- Do you look within for the solutions to pressing problems, refusing to blame those problems on others?
- Do you keep yourself from always starting new things, changing goals before you’ve had a chance to see them through?
- Do you remind yourself of the meaningful cause, the deeper purpose that fuels the passion for each goal you’re pursuing?
- Do you celebrate, and celebrate well, when a challenging goal has been fulfilled?
Every question in this list is important, and every question should have an affirmative answer. Work on the nos until they become yeses. It’s then that grit, true grit, will take root in your soul and the goals you’ve set for this year will actually get done.