While developing a gritty mind-set is important, if that mind-set is not accompanied by a change in behavior, you will not get the results you want.
So, how can you help your clients create gritty behavior?
Set Effective Goals
Help your teen clients establish goals that are specific and measurable—and then stretch them. Encourage them to write their goals down and place them where they will see them every day, for example, on their bathroom mirror or as a daily reminder on their phones. Let them know there may be days that they don’t meet a particular goal, but instead of putting themselves down, remind them to learn from it. As they work on their goals, be sure they acknowledge and savor all their wins—no matter how small.
Have Your Clients Practice Their Gritty Behavior
Give teens opportunities to practice their gritty behavior, for it is only through practice that behavior changes and grit grows. For example, while writing my book, The Grit Guide for Teens, there were times when I did not know what to write. However, it was through the practice of writing that my ideas emerged. Teach your clients about deliberate practice: a type of practice that gritty people use to improve performance. Deliberate practice is focused, intentional practice combined with feedback from experts and lots of repetition. Think of a basketball player taking three-point shots over and over again, or a violinist playing the same section of music again and again. When you combine focus, repetition, and feedback, you can improve performance and achieve your goals.
Turn Your Gritty Behavior into a Habit
When we look at the behavior of gritty people, we see that they are not exerting self-control or using willpower all day long; rather, they are engaging in habits that promote grit. When an activity becomes a habit, it is automatic and no longer needs to draw upon our limited resource of willpower. Changing habits is hard, but the good news is that if you are diligent and consistent, these new routines will become as automatic as your old bad habits.
Caren Baruch-Feldman, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and a certified school psychologist. She maintains a private practice in Scarsdale, NY, and works as a school psychologist in Harrison, NY. Baruch-Feldman has authored numerous articles and led workshops on topics such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques, helping children and adults cope with stress and worry, helping people change, and developing grit and self-control. She is a fellow and supervisor in rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), a type of CBT.