The Key to Nursing Success: GRIT, The Power of Passion and Perseverance

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In her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth shares her extensive research demonstrating the power of persistence and passion, in other words – GRIT. I first learned about her research on this topic when I watched her TED talk . She studied the debate between natural talent and I.Q. versus practice and plain old hard work. Her research is fascinating and actually, makes me feel a bit better about the fact that I wasn’t born with certain talents but with passion and perseverance, I can achieve almost anything I want.

What is the Key To Nursing Success?

She explains that grit is very SIMILAR to resilience but not quite the same. Resilience is the ability to spring or bounce back from adversity. However, grit is all about the perseverance you need to accomplish your goals – no matter what. It’s getting up at 4:30am to train for a marathon or spending hours and hours practicing IV insertion until you master it.

Grit kicks up resilience to an entirely different level.

Successful nurses have grit!

The book is divided into three parts.

Part I: Duckworth explains the science behind grit, provides the reader with a “grit scale” (how gritty are you??), and validates her research with an impressive compilation of real life stories.

One parable shared made me immediately think of the nursing profession and why some of us struggle with “those” nurses who aren’t in it for the right reasons.

The Bricklayers

Three bricklayers are asked, “What are you doing?”
The first says, “I am laying bricks.”
The second says, “I am building a church.”
The third says, “I am building a house of God.”
The first has a job. The second has a career. The third has a calling.

What is nursing to you?

Is nursing your Job, career, or calling? If nursing is a calling, you have grit.

Key To Nursing Success

Part II: Duckworth shows the reader how to become grittier and how to grow grit from the inside out. In this section she explains the 4 components to growing grit: Interest, practice, purpose, and hope.

Interest is all about maintaining a healthy curiosity. Duckworth recommends going out into the world to discover what interests you. You never know when you might stumble upon something that sparks a passion in your belly!

Practice is about doing the work, putting the time in – no matter what. According to Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert. Well, there aren’t enough life times to become an expert in everything but there is if you want to succeed at one or a few.

Purpose and hope relate to knowing WHY you want something and then BELIEVING you can succeed.

Part III: Duckworth flips the switch and shows the reader how they can help others to become grittier. This section looks at the parenting and teaching role but has application for anyone responsible for helping someone else learn anything (preceptor, mentor, etc).

I’ve frequently said during my talks that we need to be extremely supportive and not hard on new nurses during the LEARNING phase. Duckworth’s research supports this. In the early years (childhood) and when someone is learning a new concept or task, it’s best to be warm and supportive. Why? Because when we are pleasant and encouraging, we enhance someone’s intrinsic motivation. Short cutting this stage has dire consequences.

I appreciated some of the scripts Duckworth shared to guide others to develop grit.

“This is hard. Don’t feel bad if you can’t do it YET.”

The word YET is powerful because it implies that with hard work, this person can succeed!!!

“That didn’t work. Let’s talk about how you approached it and what might work better.”

This statement recognizes that failure is just part of the process and that’s okay!

“I have high standards. I’m also holding you to them because I know we can reach them together.”

Wow. I wish I had this script when I was teaching undergraduate nursing students.

I highly recommend this book if you have a goal but haven’t reached that goal YET. The best thing about this book is that you can apply her concepts to your personal AND professional life. Win-win.

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2 thoughts on “The Key to Nursing Success: GRIT, The Power of Passion and Perseverance”

    1. Hi John. If you want to get exposure to the healthcare environment, becoming a CNA is a great decision. Then you will have the opportunity to see what’s it’s like! Best of luck to you!

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