How to Harness Grit to Get Through this Pandemic

Angela Duckworth, the bestselling author of “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” talked to Harvard Business Review recently during their HBR Quarantine podcast about how we can best stay positive and productive as we cope with Covid-19.

Understanding our Bodies Response to Stress

When you experience adversity, defined as a challenge that’s threatening and new, and that could do you harm, our bodies have a partly physical response. We all feel stress: your sleep is disrupted; you may feel muscular tension; you may have an elevated heart rate; your mind gets focused on threats, and you keep thinking about them.

Duckworth explains how psychological science can help us understand those feelings; this is not an inadequate response to adversity. It’s part of resilience and grit, actually to have all of those reactions. Duckworth says what’s important is how do you manage them, “In a way, how do you optimize them? How do you make sure that you learn something in all of this? That’s the big lesson, and if you don’t learn something in this crisis, then you aren’t paying attention.”

It’s exhausting having all of those emotions, especially Duckworth says if you have this secondary response, which is, “Oh my gosh, I shouldn’t have those emotions.” or “I don’t want to feel these emotions.” You double the work when you lay upon your stress response like a meta response that you’re not supposed to have a stress response. Duckworth emphasizes that you are supposed to be stressed right now.

“If you are not even slightly stressed during this global pandemic, then you are not alive,” Duckworth added.

While we’ve been given the green light to feel stress while navigating Covid-19, Duckworth says this is an opportunity to think about the stories you want to tell about the pandemic of 2020 and how you managed it.

“You might wish to at; first say, ‘I was just totally sideswiped, I couldn’t get my life together all my routines fell out the window, I wasn’t myself. I’m not proud of that, but here’s what I’m proud of how I responded and how I learned and grew through these weeks.'”

One of the significant ways we achieve meaning in life is our response to adversity. And Duckworth says that turns this narrative into an opportunity to demonstrate and develop character.

How do you discuss resilience and grit with your team remotely? Or create a culture where an institution collectively has grit, drive, and perseverance. 

When you look at a gritty individual, they have a very aerodynamic hierarchy of goals. What they do during the day, these low-level goals match up nicely with mid-level goals and the ultimate top-level goals. All the goals align in a hierarchy that tells you, ‘this is who I am.’

That’s also true at the macro level when you think of an organization. A great organization, whether it’s a private sector company, a non-profit, or a government, they have clarity about what their mission is. And this is why companies have mission statements, and then they have strategic plans to get you to fulfill that mission using tactile objectives like KPIs, etc. As a leader, if you want to maintain or build that kind of clarity during a crisis, like Covid-19, in addition to being a great role model and having a clear mission, that vision needs to be consistently communicated.

“Motivation for an organization is like a half-filled helium balloon; you gotta keep batting it back up in the air. Don’t be so naive to think that, well, you had the annual meeting, or you even had the weekly Zoom call. I think people need constant reminding of how their part fits into the greater whole.”

Do you want to see your level of grit? Take Duckworth’s Grit Scale quiz here.

All of us at INNOVA People hope you are staying well during this trying time.