New FBI agents are assigned either assigned cases so old that witnesses have died or cases with such quick turnaround leads that the new agent is left spinning.
It didn’t take me long to figure out what I needed to do to move as quickly as possible out of the rut of Team B and into the ranks of Team A—comprised of agents who not only worked hard, but had the grit to keep moving ahead when faced with failure or adversity.
But new agents were not the only ones stuck on Team B.
Older agents who did not have the grit to consistently do what they needed to do to succeed often found themselves run over by other agents who possessed resolve, willpower, and the perseverance to stick to their long-term goals.
Grit is your ability to persevere over the long-run and thrive despite all kinds of unplanned events.
As leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners, grit is an essential skill because it is the one thing you will need to succeed. If you give up when the going gets tough, you’re done.
Here are 4 essential elements of grit that you should know:
1. Feel The Fire In Your Belly
I knew I wanted to be the type of FBI Agent who could make a difference. In other words, I was passionate about my work.
Passion is the linchpin of grit. It is doing something and following a dream that gives you both value and meaning.
Passion gives people a single-mindedness that we do not see in others. It is a combination of ambition, willpower, and grit that keeps long-term goals in focus at all times.
- When you feel your determination begin to waver, remember the reason you want to accomplish your goal.
- If you surrender and give up, ask yourself if it’s because there is no fire in your belly and you are not really following your dream.
All dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible—T.E. Lawrence
2. Maintain Clarity of Goals
When I first started working counterintelligence and espionage, my goal was to be assigned a foreign intelligence officer.
Later, though, my goal had shifted. Now it wasn’t enough to be working cases—I felt drawn to tell others about how a huge organization like the FBI could be nimble and flexible enough to react to the demands of terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11.
My vision had not changed—I still wanted to be an FBI agent, but my goal had. I became the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California for four years. I’m glad I made the move because my long-term goals had shifted.
- Revisit your goals annually to make certain that something hasn’t changed over the past year. Your mind is constantly adapting to new information coming your way.
- Even a slight shift calls for a re-alignment in your priorities. Like myself, it may not require you to throw up your hands and quit, but it may suggest that you re-think where you fit in the larger picture.
3. Follow Up With Self-Discipline
There were many times when it was tempting to give up on an investigation when the leads got cold and there was no easy path forward.
Mental toughness was required to persevere and be agile enough in my thinking that I could approach a roadblock or obstacle from many different angles—always looking for the soft underbelly and refusing to give up.
Self-discipline is important because while grit is the ability to keep doing something, self-discipline often implies the ability to refrain from doing something.
- Face your problems head on. It isn’t your problems that define you—it’s how you react and recover from them. Your problems are not going away unless you do something about them.
- Be honest with yourself about what you want to achieve, who you want to become, and the obstacles that are preventing you from achieving your goals.
- Define your goal as behavior. Identify the specific steps you need to take to achieve your goal. Define your goal in terms of behavior.
- Organize your day. Once you’ve set your goal, it must become a priority.
- Watch for excuses. Self-discipline means doing something you don’t necessary want to do.
- Remember the reasons you want to reach your goal. When you feel your determination begin to waver, remember the reason you want to accomplish your goal.
4. Learn From Your Misses
Training in the FBI starts on your first day at the FBI Academy in Quantico and ends on your last day as an agent. If FBI instructors are not pushing you beyond your comfort zone, they aren’t doing their job.
Moving out of our comfort zone is hard because it usually means a trial and error approach as we find new footing. It’s important to take mistakes in stride and use the opportunity to learn from them. Only idiots don’t learn from their mistakes.
People with grit shrug off failure, focus on immediate recovery, and move on. The attitude determines the outcome, so it’s important to focus on lessons learned and how to keep moving forward.
- Seek feedback about how you can make your best performance even better. Research indicates that leaders who are in the top 10% are those who are willing to ask for feedback—both positive and negative.
- Celebrate the small wins. Learn to appreciate the smaller steps that lead to success.
- Learn from your challenges and become better because of them.
Grit is the mental toughness to continue to move ahead even when life hasn’t thrown you a perfect hand. It is the deliberate action of doing something again and again until you get it right. And then maybe doing it again after that, too.
Talent does not trump determination. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Grit, persistence, and determination will keep you moving ahead when your circumstances and environment has changed.
How have you developed grit?
© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.
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