I am a notorious perseverer. I can persevere decades but I struggle in the short term. From painting, which I’ve done since I was a kid, to playing guitar for 25 years – I have stopped and started hundreds of times, mostly because I burn out when I attempt to be over productive, instead of doing a little everyday for my own enjoyment.
So how do we stick to tasks even when they are super challenging?
Thanks to the following guests for participating:
Careers Advisor Soma Ghosh from The Career Happiness Mentor.
Agustin Guilisasti, founder and CEO of HumanForest, London’s first free dockless e-bike service.
Here are some of the resources from the show:
Dr Angela Duckworth at a 2013 TED Talk:
Linda Kaplan Thaler at a L2 Learn to Lead talk in 2016:
James Clear at the American Program Bureau talk in 2018:
Books looked at this week:
Dr Angela Lee Duckworth: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
Linda Kaplan Thaler: Grit to Great: How Hard Work, Perseverance, and Pluck Take from Ordinary to Extraordinary
James Clear: Atomic Habits
PS. I do not receive commission for reviewing books and talks.
Exploring how we can master ourselves by looking at how experts say it is possible with your host Suswati Basu.
Welcome to the third episode of How To Be…with me Suswati as your timid presenter, guiding you through life’s tricky skills by taking this learning journey with you.
Before we begin here’s what Careers Advisor Soma Ghosh thinks about Perseverance.
I am a notorious perseverer. I can do things for decades but I struggle in the short term. From painting, which I’ve done since I was a kid, to playing guitar for 25 years – I have stopped and started hundreds of times, mostly because I burn out when I attempt to be over productive, instead of doing a little everyday for my own enjoyment.
So how do we stick to tasks even when they are super challenging?
Dr Angela Duckworth talks about the elusive value that apparently helps us keep going in Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.
Psychology professor Duckworth started off in management, then teaching, and eventually at Pennsylvania University, founding Character Lab, an institution that promotes grit in American culture. Here’s her 2013 TED Talk:
Even though we like to say that hard work is the key to success, Duckworth says we have a natural-talent bias which means we favour those with abilities rather than those who work hard.
Her formula is Skill multiplied by Effort = Achievement. She explains effort not only leads to skill; it also leads to results, which makes effort twice as important as talent.
And according to her wisdom, we should do what we love. But, more importantly, we need to stay committed to doing what we love through creating and sticking to low-level goals, which can help realize long-term goals.
Be smart about how you practice and avoid getting stuck on autopilot because we’ve all been there copying down useless information all day and then getting an average score in the end. So work smart with effort.
The best way to avoid procrastination is to get motivated. Realizing how your work contributes to the well-being of others can be a motivating factor. So find your motivation, or make one for yourself.
Similarly, Advertising Hall of Fame icon Linda Kaplan Thaler believes that grit is the key ingredient in her book Grit to Great: How Hard Work, Perseverance, and Pluck Take from Ordinary to Extraordinary.
LINDA KAPLAN THALER
She adds to Duckworth’s position on grit, saying that it will help you embrace and learn from rejection, as well take more calculated risks.
It also allows learning from experiences and adapting to new ones. For instance, Eleanor Longden was diagnosed schizophrenic after hearing voices in her head that played on her most deep-seated fears of failure and abandonment.
But she didn’t let her illness defeat her. Instead, she began studying psychology, earned her Ph.D. and is now on the board of a global support and research organization that helps people with the same mental health condition that she has.
Hence, Kaplan Thaler says the key to success is grit which means resilience, patience, passion and hard work. So, instead of daydreaming and coasting on your natural abilities, she tells us to buckle down and strive for your goals. Doing so means using failure to your advantage, taking calculated risks and courageously facing the unknown.
In a slightly frightening example, actor Michael Keaton playing McDonald’s founder Ray Croc talks about persistence – which has a variety of connotations, but you get the picture:
Now we’ve gone through what helps us to persevere, but how do we put it into practice? James Clear sets out these intentions in Atomic Habits which provides a practical framework for creating good habits and shedding bad ones.
Clear shows how tiny changes in behaviour can result in the formation of new habits which can help you to achieve the bigger picture.
Here’s the author and entrepreneur speaking at the American Program Bureau:
Clear explains habits begin with a cue, or a trigger to act. Next comes a craving for a change in state. Then comes our response, or action. The final step in the process, and the end goal of every habit, is the reward.
Building new habits requires hard-to-miss cues and a plan of action – this means changing your environment to ensure that what you need to do is in front of your face. Ie. If you want to play guitar, leave it in the middle of the room. Or set an alarm, and put it in the calendar. I kid you not, I have exercise written in the calendar every day at a specific time.
As Clear states: “Many people think they lack motivation, when what they really lack is clarity”.
The human brain releases dopamine, a hormone that makes us feel good when we do pleasurable things, as well as when we anticipate rewards. So if we attach rewards to habits, we’ll be much more likely to follow through and actually do it.
The author says if you want to build a new habit, reduce friction and make that habit as easy as possible to adopt. This also means increasing friction for certain tasks for example, if you want to watch less TV, unplug it. He also talks about the 2-minute rule – so if you want to read a book, only commit to reading two pages a night, and gradually build up.
The most important rule for behavioural change is apparently to make habits immediately satisfying. So if you want to get healthy, eat out less, and cook more, pop the money you saved from a meal out into an account called “Trip to Europe”, that way you get immediate gratification of seeing your funds grow.
And last but not least, track your habits through calendars or diaries, and try get someone else involved as part of a “habit contract”, that way you’re less likely to break it if you have the knowledge you may be disappointing someone.
So to sum up:
Duckworth’s Grit explains that without effort, skills may not be enough to achieve an end result.
Kaplan Thaler’s Grit to Great is about building on top of experience whether negative or positive in a bid to move forward. Both Grit books talk about trying to find motivation to stop procrastination.
And Atomic Habits is about how to stick to small routines and practices in order to achieve a longer-term picture by taking baby steps and using calendars, contracts, immediate gratification, and adding or reducing friction.
I love the idea of a habit contract; it will definitely make me more conscious of what I’m doing. What about you, how will you stick to your habits?
Before I leave you, listen to Agustin Guilisasti, founder and CEO of HumanForest, London’s first free dockless e-bike service. If you enjoyed this, please hit subscribe!