We tend to fall for the iceberg illusion—the illusion that the part we see above the surface is a true representation of its size. In reality the true size of an iceberg and its largest piece lies beneath the surface of the water. We tend to see success and successful people much the same way. We see the talent, the accolades, and the success, but not the passion, the perseverance, or the grit that it took to get there.

On November 6, UTM’s Department of Recreation, Athletics and Wellness hosted one of its Athlete Development Workshops, a part of a series of workshops geared towards students who identify as athletes. “Picking Yourself Up After a Loss,” presented by UTM athletics’ assessment and athlete academic support specialist, Dray Perenic, aimed to help students identify their true passions and learn how to build grit, enhancing their ability to bounce back from setbacks.

Perenic started the session off with a Ted Talk given by Angela Lee Duckworth, the author of Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. Duckworth defines grit as how passionate you are and how willing you are to work towards those passions. The grittier you are the more likely you are to stay with your future goals. “Living life is like a marathon, not a sprint,” Duckworth said. According to Duckworth, building grit begins with having a growth mindset. This idea of a growth mindset comes from believing that failure, setback, and adversity are not permanent.

We tend to attribute the success of successful people, like Kobe Bryant, J.K. Rowling, and Michael Phelps, to their obvious talent. But, Duckworth asserts that talent can be a detriment. In her research with children, Duckworth found that failure can be more important than talent. The children who didn’t know how to fail, never failed, or never had to put in much effort, didn’t learn how to deal with it later on in life. Duckworth found grittier children—children who knew how to fail and bounce back from failure—did better long-term regardless of socio-economic status (SES), IQ, or talent.

Passion is just as important as grit to achieving success and reaching goals. Dray continued the workshop by having the participants break up into small groups to identify their passions. Participants were tasked with creating a list of 25 goals they were passionate about achieving, and then they had to narrow the list down to five. Those top five, according to Perenic, are a person’s true passions. Everything else are distractions.

Alongside grit and passion, Perenic reiterated the need to remain positive, realistic, and responsible for the role one plays in their own circumstances. “It’s important to take [responsibility for yourself]. It’s not easy, especially as athletes who play as part of a team. It’s easier to put the blame on to others” Perenic said.

Perenic is a mother and uses her own children as an example. She tries to foster positivity in her kids, by making it a habit to ask them to tell her one good thing that happened in their day. Her son doesn’t seem to have a problem sharing the positive, while her daughter struggles to keep from hanging on to the negative. Her story from her own family experience illustrates that it’s easier for some people to have a positive outlook.

Dray ended the session with a number of techniques we can use to help develop a mindset and foster positivity, which you can do in just 21 days: write in a gratitude journal, exercise, meditate, practice mindfulness, and participate in random acts of kindness.

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