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micro skills

You need have grit to achieve your goals.Edward J Bock III/Getty Images/iStockphoto

This is part of a series looking at micro skills – changes that employees can make to improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Read about the 2017 winners of the award at

Friday, Nov. 17 is the final day to register your company for 2018 at

What is one thing you want to accomplish in 2018?

Having a clearly defined personal goal with a defined outcome can assist in driving our purpose for getting out of bed and embracing our day. Picking one goal and focusing on it with purpose and conviction can feed our spirit that promotes and supports positive mental health.

One key is picking a personal goal that inspires us. Research by American psychologist, researcher and author Angela Duckworth suggests that having a goal aligned with a defined passion can fuel our motivation to push through adversity associated with learning and overcoming failures on the path to achieving the goal.

Sometimes it's not the most talented person who finishes first; it's the person who has the most courage, follows through on what they say, remains optimistic in tough times, and focuses on excellence to finish without being frozen by the need for perfection. Grit is a positive trait based on passion and motivation to achieve a measurable, long-term goal.

Do you know someone who had never run a marathon who woke up one day and said they were going to run one? Training and putting themselves through a transformation from huffing and puffing to walk up the stairs to being fit enough to run a full marathon is a wonderful example of grit in action.

When we pick a goal and challenge ourselves – whether physically, mentally (such as taking a course), work (starting a new career or project) or life (focusing on improving our finances) – we become engaged in the process and we develop our grit.

In 2014, The Globe and Mail and Howatt HR launched the Your Life at Work Survey that's still active online helping individuals to measure their quality of work life. To launch this study, we ran articles on topics such as, "Do you have the grit to reach your goals?"

Here are the results from 844 respondents who took our grit survey:

· Nineteen per cent fell in the low grit category. This score suggests a person is struggling to finish goals and following through on their plans.

· Fifty per cent fell in the moderate grit category. This suggests a person sets goals with good intentions and motivation to achieve; however, they may not follow through because they change their mind or get distracted by another goal.

· Thirty per cent fell in the high grit category. This score suggests a person has the resolve and commitment to follow through more times than not on what they set out to accomplish.

· The average score on the 10-item scale was 35/50.

· The three items that received the lowest score – which indicated why some people have a lower than desired grit score – were:

-I take rejection hard;

-I frequently set a goal and then change it;

-Setbacks discourage me.


Before you set your next personal goal, consider the role grit can play in supporting your success. The first step is to become aware of the link between passion and success. Think about the last three goals you wanted to achieve, complete the Grit Quick Survey, and compare your results to outcomes of these goals.


The first lesson from self-awareness with respect to grit is understanding the role self-determination and conviction play in accomplishing personal goals. Next is considering how what we want to accomplish is supported by our environment (such as by our family, partner or employer). When we pick goals, it's beneficial to consider potential, unintended consequences that may occur by spending time and energy on passion. Ideally, our goals don't hurt or take away from others we love or care about.


When you pick a goal you're comfortable with pursuing, the more you can tap into grit, the more likely you'll be successful in overcoming short-term barriers. As well, you're likely to have long-term drive to achieve your desired success.

Tips for sparking grit daily:

Intentionally plug into likeminded people – One way to fuel yourself is to surround yourself with people who want the same thing as you.

Pay attention to your self-talk – Praise yourself for trying to keep your mind on the process required to achieve your goal.

Define milestones in small chunks – Have one or two simple and clearly defined actions that support your goal. Focus on the defined tasks.

Reinforce your purpose – Answer why what you want is important to you, and say it to yourself before you go to bed.

Stay nimble – No plan is perfect. Accept that to achieve your goal your plan may need to change or evolve, based on circumstances. Keep top of mind that in the end it's the goal that matters, so you can allow yourself to be flexible and adapt as needed.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto.

This article supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award. This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series