Concepts like PsyCap have become popular in organizational contexts; while concepts like Grit are found to be more useful in academic pursuits and as applied to school settings. But no comprehensive construct exists that could measure and be applied to your whole life domain.
Before we go further, lets recall that PsyCap is a higher level construct consisting of the four lower level constructs: Hope, Self- Efficacy, Resilience and Optimism. Developing and building reserves of these psychological capital in the organizational context has been shown to be associated with higher measures of performance and engagement and job satisfaction.
Grit, similarly, is theorized to be made up of Passion and Perseverance and has been shown to predict GPA better than IQ.
Both of the above concepts like Grit and PsyCap have been operationalized and valid and reliable measures exist to measure them and also measure the effectiveness of interventions aimed to increase them. It is to be noted that PsyCap is more state-like while Grit is more trait-like, but both are assumed to be capable of development.
However, in my opinion, a newer construct is needed, that is consisting of eight low-level factors, that aims to capture the entire essence of goal related pursuits and how that may relate to psychological well-being and flourishing.
The need and structure of that construct I wrote about yesterday in my psychology blog The Mouse Trap. Here is an excerpt from that delineating the eight factors:
Purpose: Everyone should start with defining their life purpose. Once defined, it provides a general direction and decision-pulse for all your decisions, actions etc. It is the super-ordinate goal of your life and all other goals should be subordinate and aligned to this. A firm commitment to this purpose provides the motivation/ drive to achieve and flourish. This acts as the ‘narrow’ polarity of the fundamental four ABCD model by restricting our choices, once purpose is determined and defined. This is the end goal.
Pathways : If purpose is the end goal, pathways are the means or subordinate goals and strategies to achieve that super-ordinate goal. It enables one to flexibly take stock of the progress towards the end goal and adjust or change the means goal to continue momentum towards the end goal. As Angela Duckworth says ‘ “Go, go, go until you can’t go anymore…then turn left.” This acts as the ‘broad’ polarity of the fundamental four ABCD model by expanding our repertoire of responses.
Positive narratives: We all tell stories to ourselves and our view of past is not objective but actively constructed. And its better to tell positive stories to ourselves than otherwise. This is related to learned optimism. As per Seligman, one should make stable, internal and pervasive/ generic attributions about positive events and temporary, external and specific attributions about negative events. This eventually enables us to have a positive image of our abilities in the past and leads to hope and self confidence that we will be able to achieve in future too. This is related to ‘other’ polarity: how we interpret what happens to us via others .
Positive self-belief: Call it confidence, call it self-efficacy or call it even agency ; this is belief in one’s own ability and efforts to lead to positive outcomes. This is obviously related to ‘self’ and is cognitive in nature.
Perseverance: This is being in for the long haul. When set upon achieving a goal, time is not a constraint, and one would continue investing time into the pursuit; if setbacks happen, one rebounds or emerges more determined. One does not change one’s goal or strategy easily. This is also related to resilience. This is ‘passive ‘ polarity as one reacts to setbacks / obstacle when they happen, but otherwise just continues investing time and energy. This is behavioral in nature.
Practice: This is ensuring that efforts are not a constraint when it comes to achieving the goal. One is willing to work hard to archive ones goals and one actively and regularly and diligently puts in that effort. This again is ‘active’ and behavioral in nature. The willingness to put in hard work can again be developed like other constructs.
Passion: This is not the regular definition of passion; by passion here I mean a consistency of interests and a fascination with a subject. It includes things like not getting distracted or waylaid by competing interests and also not letting you interest wane or fade over the time. It is obviously related to emotions and is the ‘pain’ polarity as an obsessive passion may sometime lead to pain.
Playfulness: This is about having a playful attitude when working towards your goals; it includes things like enthusiasm towards the goal, enjoying the journey by having flow experiences and being engaged and curious. This too is emotional in nature and is related to ‘pleasure’ polarity.
I use the above framework to coach my clients to achieve their goals/ dreams in life. I start at the top with defining the life purpose, or overarching dream and goal, and work backwards till they can me made to discover and build upon a passion for that goal.
I can also potentially see some strengths (Gallup framework) that align more closely with some of these than others. Belief can help with committing to a clear purpose/ vision; Strategic can help with finding alternate pathways; Self-assurance can be used to build self-efficacy; Postivity can be used for interpreting events positively; Focus lets you pursue goals with single minded determination without being distracted and leads to perseverance; Discipline lets you practice day in and day out with a plan and schedule; Learner or Input can be the cornerstone of passion in a domain; and finally, Positivity, again, can be used for cultivating the playful attitude.
I would love to see more people using this framework and would love to hear back from them as to how useful this is, over and above, and beyond, the usual concepts like Grit and PsyCap. Of course, for this to be really useful, this construct (either as a whole or as sub factors) would need to be operationlised and measured and interventions validated for boosting all of its sub factors.
With more and more movement toward work-life integration, its time to have a single goal pursuit related construct, investing and building on which could provide you with the resources to pursue it successfully, while maintaining and even enhancing your well-being, in all domains of life.
Successful goal pursuit, and even the mere fact that you have some important goals in life, has been shown to be associated with better psychological well-being. Research by Sonja Lyubomirsky on happiness has shown that at least 40 % of happiness is under our control and is related to pursuing activities and interests.
If we really want to flourish in life, we should have some WISE goals and should actively work towards them. The above construct will help you do that and not only achieve your goals, but also be happy in the process!!