In her book Grit, Angela Duckworth talks about the concept of deliberate practice and how people who are really great and successful at what they do spend a good deal of time in deliberate practice. She also points out that this type of practice is not necessarily enjoyable, but is focused and has the purpose of increasing skill level. She points out that when we see someone doing really well, we automatically assume that they are “a natural”. This is an excuse for us to not feel inadequate or ‘not as good’ when we compare ourselves to them (which we will do because we are human). We don’t see the hours and hours of practice that go into being great, we simply see the end result of success.
She also speaks to the decision to continue to practice even when it isn’t fun and to not give up. It is not always fun and games- many people will consider giving up along the way, but the great ones keep pushing, keep practicing, keep making the choice to stick with it. This deliberate choice builds resilience- the ability to more easily bounce back after a stumble or fall.
The idea of continuing to try, even in the face of adversity and challenge, made me think of the concept from Marriage and Family Therapist Robert Jameson of “Continuously Consciously Choosing”. He uses this concept in reference to relationships and staying in love with one’s mate, but it is, at its core, the perfect description of grit. The decision to stick with it, to be mindfully in it, and to choose to continue can be helpful in any situation in which we want to succeed at some level.
None of this means that there will not be failure along the way or loads of difficulty and hurdles to maneuver around. This is where Tal Ben Shahar’s concept of Perfectionist vs Optimalist comes in to view. Ben Shahar reports that there are two camps of people- those who fear failure and become crippled to the point of not even trying and those who use failure to learn and to change their approach. The Perfectionist sees difficulty and possible failure as unacceptable and can miss out on opportunities as they limit themselves out of what they see as protection. In his view, Perfectionists struggle to see the lesson and the opportunity to try again in a new way. Optimalists, on the other hand, see difficulty and failure as chance for growth. They choose to keep going, to try again, and to learn from what they have experienced.
Duckworth also reports the benefits of being open to learning from mistakes and even suggests that we try to do so with a smile as we embrace getting back up and giving it another go. She refers to a simple Japanese saying that I instantly fell in love with:
Fall 7, Rise 8
And if we are going to talk about failing, we cannot ignore Samuel Beckett’s quote:
Deliberate practice, grit, resilience, Optimalism- all of these concepts easily apply to tasks, sports, and goals, but more importantly, they all apply to living our lives from day-to-day. Life is challenging and there will be failures, twists, and challenges every day. If we can shift our perspective and see these things as opportunities to grow and to become the next best version of ourselves, then we can find happiness in the journey.
In the next week, notice how you view challenges- big and small- and try on a new view. One of growth in the face of feeling uncomfortable or inconvenienced. Every thought and action we have today is shaping who we will be tomorrow. Let’s Continuously Consciously Choose to become the people we have the potential of being.
You know I will be practicing right along with you.
Keep up the good work and we will talk again soon.