The Hard Thing Rule

I don’t want to exercise in the morning. I feel good when I do it, but I don’t wake up wanting to do it. I like to wake up slowly, drink my coffee, check emails, and start cranking away at my to-do list for the day. I actually prefer it at the end of the day, but my current life doesn’t really support that schedule.

When I was single, I only had one person to please so I could work out any time I liked. But I married a morning person who is ready for lights out by 9:00 p.m. and who really looks forward to evenings together over dinner on the porch. In the give and take of relationships, it just works better to get my exercise out of the way first thing in the morning. So, how do I learn to like it more and change my pattern to actually get it done so I can have both my exercise and an enjoyable evening with my husband? The answer may be in learning the virtue of doing hard things.

Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance submits that there is a great deal of virtue and momentum gained by doing the hard things. In a boatload of research, she found that natural ability had much less to do with success than with what she calls “grit” which she defines as a combination of passion and perseverance in the pursuit of a long-term goal. She cited example after example of students, athletes, actors, and business tycoons who had the “grit” to persevere through the hard things and hard parts of the journey toward their dreams.

One of her earliest studies was with the cadets at West Point where about 20% of the 1000 new cadets each year quit before graduation, most of them before the end of the tough first two-week initiation called, “The Beast.” The initial assessment they took, which gauged their innate ability, did little to predict who would drop out and who would make it for the long haul. Duckworth created her own “grit scale” measuring cadets’ responses to things like, “I finish what I start” or “New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones.” Cadets that scored the highest on the “grit scale” were the most likely to finish the program regardless of their raw talent.

Duckworth has taken her lessons home to her own family… and this is where we come in. She developed the “Hard Thing Rule.” She, her husband, and their two teenage children commit to one hard thing about which they are passionate and for which they passionately want an outcome. It must also be something that requires daily practice. They agree that they cannot quit until they come to a natural stopping point such as the end of a season. She believes it has taught them follow through, the building of consistency over time, and the virtue of doing hard things. In other words, they’ve developed true grit.

It feels helpful to me to think that by choosing the commitment of getting my exercise done early in the mornings, I’m not just building physical muscle, but I’m also strengthening my “true grit” muscle which may just help me in other areas of life and work for which I passionately desire a particular outcome.

What would you choose this week to which you could apply the “Hard Thing Rule?” Where do you need to develop more “grit” in order to obtain the things you feel most passionate about?

 

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“True grit is making a decision and standing by it, doing what must be done. No moral man can have peace of mind if he leaves undone what he knows he should have done.
~~John Wayne

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