What is the secret to success? Answers often include luck, timing, talent, but I would say grit.
It’s the four-letter word that separates the winners from the losers. Grit at its core is perseverance - ideally with passion - for long-term goals. It’s hailed as the ingredient for success. Couple it with self-control and you surpass talent and ability.
The same applies to our financial success: grit gets results.
Angela Lee Duckworth, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, has done the hard graft on grit. Over the course of her research she studied young maths students, military trainees, teachers and sales people – always drilling down to find the ‘thing’ that would indicate who would stick it out and make a success of things versus who would drop out. It was not those with the highest IQ, or the skill. It was those who persevered, they are the ones who found, or should that be created, personal success.
Perseverance is part of grit. The doing of something over and over and over again. It’s about how we behave and how we approach things on a daily basis.
And this, our behaviour and our mindset, is exactly what makes us financial winners. If you think about it, the important thing is not hunting down great investments, but creating great investors. The goal is to create profitable investment behaviour, profitable behaviour with money.
It’s interesting that we can relate to the need to knuckle down and do daily things to get fitter, slimmer, smarter (if passing exams is a measure of it). Yet we don’t do the same with money.
So, to help release the financial grit-guru within, here are a few things to do. These steps are no different to those you would take to achieve in other areas of life:
• Set a realistic goal
Your life and circumstance is unique to you. Your financial goal can be anything pertinent to you, such as getting out of credit card debt, saving six months' emergency fund, saving X dollars a month or starting to invest. Whatever it is, take baby-steps and build on success. There’s no point saying you’ll be a millionaire in Y years. Break it down to realistic, achievable chunks. When you hit your first goal, keep going. You’ll get that feel-good factor, and realise that, yes, you can do it.
• Make it part of daily behaviour
If you want to lose weight you would monitor what you eat every day. If you want to get fitter, you’d be doing something about it daily. It’s the same with working your financial grit. Break down your goal into daily things you can do to move closer to it. Depending on what your goal is, your daily behaviour could include packing lunch, setting no-spend days (or holidays) or reading a book on investing.
• Stay committed
You will start out small, and if you stick with it, it will pick up and you will do more – as long as you stick with it.
• Don’t go it alone
Having a support network really helps, so seek out friends and family that will join you on the journey, or at the very least hear you out when you are waning and need to talk it through.
• When you’ve achieved your baby step goal, set another
Alongside it have a longer-term goal that it fits into. Write it up, share it with your support group and put it somewhere you can see.
There are also things that are specific to our financial life , so make them part of your grit process too:
• Have a financial meeting with yourself every week
You are the chief financial officer of your life, so block out time, get your papers read, bills paid, policies renewed and statements checked.
• Set aside time every week / quarter, as you see fit, to go over your financial plan, goals, and how it’s going, with yourself/ spouse / family
Again, even if there’s nothing to do in the way of decisions or policies, the mere act of going through the motions, with dedication and discussion, will influence everyone’s financial behaviour - eventually.
Grit. We can define it, observe it, and cite it as a common denominator.
But how do we foster it? The growth mindset is one way. It is the belief that you can develop, learn, and become different to the way you are now, better at things.
You won’t be the only one to benefit, those around you will too.
Nurturing grit in our children happens by default if we’re gritty ourselves. It’s illusive - we can’t quite pinpoint, package, or pass it on – except that we do, by behaving and modeling it for our young ones.
Financial grit is exactly the same. We pass it on by being and doing it.
Success isn’t primarily about skill. It’s about behaviour. This is why talented people often don’t come out on top.
In her TED talk, Professor Duckworth says “grit is stamina, and sticking with your future – not just for the day, not just for the month, but for years".”
Make grit work for you. You’ll be better off for it.
Nima Abu Wardeh is a broadcast journalist, columnist and blogger. Share her journey on finding-nima.com