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Sunday, 20 September 2015

Do you have the grit to reach your goals?

Just over nine months ago the clock turned past midnight, triggering the dawn of 2015. On that night millions of Canadians set new goals for themselves for the upcoming year. Yes, the famed New Year’s resolutions.
One of the most common resolutions focuses on health, such as quitting smoking or losing weight. Something like, “I want to lose 15 pounds.” Why? ‘I’m not happy with the way I look,’ or ‘I know this extra weight is not good for my health.’ Notice the language of this goal. It says what the goal is, but fails to say how it will be implemented, measured and monitored.
Did you set one of those goals? If so, how are you doing nine months out? If you failed, this article may help provide some insight and ideas so that if you repeat this resolution in 2016 you may be in a better position to achieve your goal.
There can be many reasons why people quit their New Year’s resolutions. One is due to gaps in their coping skills. Copings skills come in two forms, those that help a person make a decision in the moment, and those that support achieving a long-term goal.
Life for most of us is filled with time demands that challenge our priorities. Many of these challenges can tax our resources and be perceived as stressors. Whenever you are faced with a perceived stressor, such as a demanding boss, partner, or parent, you have no choice but to take action.
The gap between the stressor and your response is where thinking and decision-making happens. The kinds of choices you make will depend on your coping skills. Doing nothing is also an action.
Your coping skills, experiences, beliefs, expectations and values, which quickly interact to evaluate a stressor, determine what kind of emotion will be attached – whether it is positive, neutral or negative.
When a stimulus is negative this drives a powerful emotional response, such as fear. It’s these moments that test a person’s coping skills. Under pressure, the good intention to lose weight or stop smoking can quickly be forgotten. Both of these outcomes are often due to engaging in unhealthy actions to cope with stress.
Bill Howatt is the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S. He is also the chief research and development officer of workforce productivity at Morneau Shepell
Stress creates pain. Most people don’t like pain; they want to get away from it. In this situation, a person may give up pursuing a goal and slip back to an old, unhealthy coping strategy to deal with the stress, such as reaching for sweets or a cigarette when they’re under stress. This is not uncommon and one reason why many people’s New Year’s resolutions fade away.
We know coping skills can predict who will be better able to manage the stress of life and be able to stay healthy. That was one finding from the Your Life at Work Survey done by The Globe and Mail in conjunction with Howatt HR.
The relapse of personal goals is common. Another kind of coping skill that influences how quickly a person who slips up gets back on track or pushes through a painful moment to reach their goal is their level of grit.
Grit can be described as persistence, drive, will, determination, resolve and motivation to achieve a long-term goal. One only needs to look at war as the ultimate incubator for developing grit to survive. This is an extreme example of how people can develop their grit to achieve a goal when motivated.
The Your Life at Work coping skills measure focuses on helping people evaluate how they cope with stress. This month we are adding a Grit scale to the survey help you self-evaluate your current grit level. You can take the survey here at or
There’s no perfection in life. Things change and life can be hard. Coping skills can help a person not only navigate a stressful situation but also achieve their goals and life dreams. Grit helps provide insight into why some people with average talent become great. They simply out-work their peers, and through sheer drive and determination never lose their focus.
The final question for you today is, what would a bit more grit do for your life?
Bill Howatt (@billhowatt) is the chief research and development officer of workforce productivity at Morneau Shepell and also the president of Howatt HR Consulting in Kentville, N.S.
Take the Globe and Mail and Howatt HR’s Your Life at Work Survey and find out your grit level. At the end will be the Grit Survey.
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