Grit, Perseverance and Self-Control

What do Serena Williams, Russell Wilson, The Arizona Cardinals, Kobe Bryant and Jameis Winston all have in common? They have all been trained by Ryan Flaherty, who’s now the senior director of Performance at Nike. Ryan’s known in the industry for dramatically improving athletes speed, but he’s also sought out for his guidance on injury prevention.

So, why am I sharing all of this? Ryan has a terrific podcast called Trained where he explores what greatness means; spoiler alert, you’re not born with it. While the podcast is definitely tailored to athletes and fitness enthusiasts, there’s much more to it. Why is this relevant to educational coaching? When I’m working with students, I often try and find the things they’re interested in outside of school. No surprise, sports are often high on kids’ lists. I can ask for awhile about schoolwork, but if I start asking them about an athlete they admire, or the sport they love, that’s where the magic happens.

Ryan interviewed Angela Duckworth on his podcast earlier this year. I’m a huge fan of Grit and Duckworth’s approach. According to Duckworth, excellence sometimes seems like the result of natural talent. But no matter how gifted you are—no matter how easily you climb up the learning curve—you do need to do that climbing. There are no shortcuts. Grit predicts accomplishing challenging goals of personal significance. For example, grittier students are more likely to graduate from high school, and grittier cadets are more likely to complete their training at West Point. Notably, in most research studies, grit and measures of talent and IQ are unrelated, suggesting that talent puts no limits on the capacity for passion and perseverance.

I highly recommend the podcast; Flaherty and Duckworth get in to grit, how it relates to goal setting, overcoming adversity, and one of the highlights of the podcast is Duckworth’s discussion of self-control, as Duckworth says, grit’s cousin. I

Duckworth suggested four tricks or hacks to take to help with self-control:

1. Situation Selection: Choose to be with people who bring out your best. Choose your friends wisely. If you are training for a game or an event, working with your competitive friend might be a good option. If your goal is to get better at the flute, have a friend over from band who can practice with you.
2. Situation Modification: Once you are somewhere you can fix or modify the situation. You have the control to move something that is distracts you or takes away from your goal. This works great for cell phones (move it out of the room).
3. Attention Strategies: Look away from things you are trying to avoid. Look towards what you want to do more of. Focus on what goal you are trying to accomplish.
4. Changing The Way You Mentally See Something: Duckworth uses the example of going to the gym. Some people look at going to the gym as something they have to do but others look at it as fun, or as their time. Studies show that motivation is greater if you enjoy something. Change the way you think about your physical environment can have greater effects on your enjoyment and ability to stick with something.

The podcast is great, highly recommend it for teens too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *