Self discovery, especially at a young age, is a critical part of development that ultimately leads to a young person developing a strong work ethic defined by resilience and perseverance. It involves making time for the necessary introspection to find out what spikes one’s interest, what one is inherently good at and enjoys doing, and what external conditions are most conducive to one working effectively. It’s also learning what one doesn't like and even finds challenging and frustrating. This can help to know when to reach out for help, research helpful resources, and lay out a game plan for those tasks that are really difficult.
This process - seeking help, proactively researching, planning for success - requires a mature mindset and is a prerequisite for developing true grit. The process of self discovery is unique for every person, dependent on your starting point, degree of vulnerability, level of grittiness, and more. However, everyone’s self discovery journey has the same end goal of identifying purpose, realizing true goals, and actualizing one’s inner potential.
Self discovery is also an ongoing journey, and it becomes increasingly important - albeit in new ways - as one reaches high school. Setting college and career goals requires considerable self reflection to learn about what one finds enjoyable, challenging, or dissatisfying. This can be helpful for students to use these insights to determine what courses to take, what special programs to invest time in to or interesting opportunities to research. Self discovery can help students unlock their full potential by knowing and leveraging strengths and weaknesses to their advantage as they navigate course work, extracurriculars, college and career exploration, and more. They can do so to the best of their abilities because of their awareness of where they thrive and how they struggle.
How Can Students Build Grit?
- . Evaluate their skills- What is a student good at? What are areas they really struggle? Taking assessments to determine personality type and areas of interest can help to identify where students’ strengths (and weaknesses) lie. Thinking about more hands-on skills that one has is beneficial too; the things one has experience with and knows how to do. Having a solid understanding of one’s skill set is vital to making sure students are set up for success and won’t burn out.
- Identify their motivators - What are characteristics and experiences students are proud of? What are characteristics or traits that make them a better person, teammate, learner? Students should think of their accomplishments and analyze what those say about their mindset, abilities, and interests. The more in touch students are with what motivates them and what they value about themselves, the better they’ll be able to pursue goals that are good fits for them.
- Pursue their passions - and keep an open mind- The more that students are able to identify those pursuits about which they are naturally passionate and motivated, the easier it will be to pursue goals … because it won’t feel like work! When we do things we love, we are enthusiastic and focused. At the same time, it is important that students never stop exploring because there just might be pursuits out there that they haven’t discovered yet.
- Overcome obstacles: Even while pursuing one’s passions, it is inevitable that the best laid plans will go sideways. Something challenging or simply unappealing will need to get done, students will come up against roadblocks, and they will question the decisions they have made to pursue a particular goal in the first place. This is where grit comes in to help one push through setbacks.
As a counselor, focus on specific actions that you can take to help your students build grit.
How Can Counselors Cultivate Grit in Students?
- Help students identify inflection moments when they need to either change course, change their attitude, or change approach.
- Encourage students to reflect on past challenges and identify the processes they used to overcome them. Giving up can become a habit for students. Counselors can help redirect that urge to throw the towel in by replacing it with habitual introspection.
- Create a process for students to operationally separate facts from feelings and objective logic from overwhelming subjectivity. Strenghen this process so that students can trust it enough to know when to ignore their own self-doubt.
- Don't discourage failure, because growth is in the struggle. Though grit is not developed overnight, by helping our students persevere through challenges - and teaching them the importance of doing so - we are setting them up for future success no matter what path they choose.
Learning more about oneself through self discovery is vital to setting and achieving goals. We can help students by providing them with the resources to dive into the journey of self discovery. This could be being a soundboard for their trials and tribulations, a gentle nudge when they need it to persevere on their path, or guiding them through self reflection to figure out where they’re going. This will support students in building grit, ultimately tapping into their full potential.