I heard a quote recently that success is making small progress each day.
The point was that success does not happen overnight (which is good), but it got me thinking. This is a rather narrow view of success. What about if you don’t make progress? Sometimes how you react to failure and your perseverance despite a lack of progress are more telling to overall success. This isn’t to minimize the importance seeing those small victories, but rather that success is found by working hard even when you aren’t sure you are getting closer.
For instance, I have been tracking my food and activity for almost 200 days and I’m not currently making progress towards my goals. I’m not even a little tempted to quit. I am going to get to a doctor to see what I need to adjust and keep on. It is frustrating, but my goals are worth the work and wait. I will run on a regular basis again and feel strong. I know so much about evidenced-based nutrition information that Pinterest thinks I am studying to pass my dietian exam, but even with all that knowledge I need some help from medical professionals.
I love teaching and learning so naturally I am a big fan of TED Talks. I recently came across this one on “Grit” by Angela Lee Duckworth.
The big take away for me is that success comes from being gritty, that ability to work hard towards a long term goal even when there are failures or a lack of progress. Gritty people do not view failure as the end, but rather just something to push past and take as a lesson. They don’t give up.
Like the speaker, I’m not sure how we can cultivate grit in students. I think a good place to start is to acknowledge that success is not a linear path and failure and mistakes are part of the process of learning. When I teach video production I always focus on mistakes I’ve made or seen in a lighthearted way.
Sometimes those mistakes are happy accidents. Sometimes they are learning opportunities. They are always how you get better.
Like many things, I think it comes back to kindness. If you view setbacks as your fault or the end you will not be as successful as if you just take it in stride as best you can and not be too hard on yourself. Maybe it is because of my deep love for learning, but I find some of the most rewarding things to learn are the most challenging. This includes accepting setbacks as part of the process, not the end of the journey.