Positive Psychology is concerned essentially with the elements of and predictors of the good life. Components of the good life include those things that hold the greatest value in life. Individually, we may see the good life consisting of different things but in Positive psychology the good life is a connection to others, positive individual traits, and life regulation qualities. When we engage in these three things we are going beyond happiness and actually entering a state of flourishing. The ability to flourish is defined as the ability for a person to grow as a human being both through the good times as well as in the struggles of life. Growth needs to be in a direction established by goals in our lives. Goals are simply our hopes and dreams for the coming years. To accomplish our goals we must have motivation, both intrinsically and extrinsically. A key ingredient to intrinsic motivation is a person’s grit. Angela Duckworth, who is considered to be an expert on the study of grit defines grit as a non-cognitive trait based on an individual's perseverance of effort combined with passion for a particularly long term goal or end state. This skill is the stick-to-itiveness that keeps us going, persevering, and not stopping in both good and bad times. This grit thing brings us all the way back to our definition of flourishing, we grow as human beings by enduring life.
Sports have existed for 1000’s of years. Our earliest Olympic Games date back to 760 BC with one event being competed, running. Sports have always been important to me. I have defined my life through the lessons learned in practice and competition. Research shows that sports contribute to the development of the good life or well-being of people; honesty, teamwork, relationships, respect for others, and adherence to rules are all learnings from sport. I can not lie, I have enjoyed, and been blessed with many victories in my life. I have also had my share of spirit-crushing losses. Early in my life I saw those losses as a blow to my well-being. As I have aged as an athlete, I can not say I love the losses but I have come to appreciate the value and life lessons that those losses can teach us is we choose to persevere. Positive psychology can help us with an inescapable reality: bad situations happen. Those that can rise above it are able to perform not by getting rid of bad feelings, but by doing what they do in the presence of negative thoughts/feelings without letting them get in the way of goals.
A path I chose ten years ago to be a coach was driven by a desire to add meaning to my life. Coaching allows me to use a platform to teach global attribution to children as well as adults. A key part to every season is the establishing of team and individual goals. In running, these goals are normally attached to times for various distances and individual/team placing at different competitions. As a coach I love to see my individuals and teams meet their goals, who doen’t? Witnessing hard work pay-off is extremely rewarding to the individual, the team, and ultimately to me as a coach. In sporting events and life, a lot of people compete but there is actually only one winner. There are 351 NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams but only one team gets to hoist the championship trophy at the end of March Madness. Does that mean that the other 350 schools are losers? If so, why compete if ultimately you know you will be tagged as a loser. There is more to sport that winning: there is the drive to persevere, learn, lose, and display grit. I have referenced this in previous papers, my favorite bible verse is Romans 5:3-5. I am paraphrasing a bit but it goes something like this: you will have hardships in life, and to get the most out of life, you must persevere (a component of grit) through these hardships as they help develop strong character (passion), and people with strong character will always have hope. That word hope keeps us going towards our goals and that we will eventually meet our goal. People high in hope tend to anticipate greater well-being in the future.
I believe that ability to display grit is an import characteristic for success regardless of the activity: drama, school, sports, music, and careers all require a degree of grit. Looking back on my life, I believe I genetically inherited some grit from my parents. My mother and father died early in my life, that in itself required grit on my part to endure through probably the two worst days in my life, the days that I had to bury a parent. Long before their deaths I remember learning work ethic from my parents. Basically, they instilled in me to get the job done right, at the right time, at the right price, regardless of the situation and/or circumstances. Work ethic requires grit: the belief that bad events will not last forever and good events will recur. On top of the grit my parents instilled, I have fostered grit in the various seasons of my life. Just as neuroplasticity states that the brain can change over time, research also shows that grit can change behaviors as life experiences change. I have embraced that bad things will happen, to learn and grow requires a mental shift from asking “why did this bad thing happen to me?” and instead ask “what am I to learn from this situation and how do I apply it later in life?” My overall well-being has improved as a result of this way of thinking. I also believe that the well-being of others has improved when I utilize this way of thinking.
Next week, I will dive deeper into measuring and developing your level of grit…….