What actually makes people good at what they do?

From a mental toughness perspective, grit is one of the most important qualities that distinguish elite athletes from the rest. Grit is described as the perseverance and passion to achieve long-term goals. While it isn’t as convenient as being born with natural talent, the good news is that everyone can develop grit and enhance their performance significantly.

(Grit) Mental Toughness = Intensity (desire/passion/action) + Perseverance

If you lack the desire and/or passion for what you do, start by focusing strictly on actions as a starting point to increase your intensity. Ask yourself, how can I act like a high performer and incorporate those same behaviors into my lifestyle and what I do? Focus on simple actions. A basketball player who is consistently in position every time (action), and who follows through on every play until the play is 100% over (action), increases the chance of his team scoring. Consistent, aggressive actions are far more effective than waiting for the perfect condition or moment to act. Actions precede results; and when we see results, we feel good. Playing well actually gives us energy, which naturally sparks desire and passion. Worrying about being the best is overwhelming, but focusing on simple actions is easy. Don’t wait until you feel motivated to do something. Actions increase motivation. Act like, think like, and be like the top athletes, and you will improve.

Grit also includes perseverance. Perseverance means staying motivated over time and when faced with multiple obstacles. As humans, we are programmed to fear and avoid anything that is unpleasant. So in order to be mentally tough, part of our preparation is learning to expect difficulty. When we see obstacles as part of the process to becoming successful, we face the irrational fears, emotional reactions, and or self-sabotaging behaviors head on.

Identifying setbacks and disappointments as part of our experience can significantly increase our happiness and emotional health. Many athletes can do well when things are easy; but the most admirable athletes are those who consistently give their best effort when faced with difficulty.