Is ‘grit’ so great?

The psychological quality of ‘grit’ has been getting a warm write up recently, following the 2016 publication of academic psychologist Andrea Duckworth’s book ‘Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance’. She portrays ‘grit’ as the critical factor in individual success, whether professionally, on the sports field, or in education. Whilst I have no argument with recognising the important roles of passion and perseverance in pursuit of worthwhile goals, the concept of grit has gained a currency which risks glossing over some of the difficulties it can present.

In particular, the emphasis on sustained, intense effort as the critical factor in success, which in Duckworth’s book is defined principally in the context of success in competition, whether in exams, the selection process for the West Point Military Academy in the US, or reaching the upper echelons of a corporate hierarchy, is problematic.

In Singapore, high levels of corporate stress and burnout are prevalent, just as they are in other global commercial centres. Pressure for exam success in the local and international school systems weighs heavily on young people. By definition, in competition, we cannot all succeed and we do not all share equal academic ability. That may be despite having made great efforts and pushed ourselves very hard indeed. If we have worked as hard as we reasonably can and still not succeeded, how does it serve us to tell ourselves we must work harder still? Or that we have failed, or are defective in some way because our grittiest efforts have not yielded the desired results?

We might also ask ourselves what this hard work and focus on success in competition displaces from our lives. In cases of corporate burnout, great efforts at work have often displaced meaningful and enjoyable time with friends and family, as well as humour, happiness, play, fun and vitality.  Life can come to feel empty and meaningless if the desired goal or state of ‘success’ is not reached. Over time, the “allostatic load” on the body increases: the wear and tear on the body which accumulates as a result of repeated or chronic stress can reach a level where increasingly serious physical health problems may result.

While grit may be a practically useful quality in members of the military, such as the West Point cadets studied by Duckworth, those of us who are fortunate enough not to be living in a warzone or who are not serving in the military might usefully question whether it is healthy for us and our children to live as if going to school or to the office is just another version of going into battle.

For further reading on burnout:

Written by:                                                                                                                Laura Timms
Psychotherapist                                                                                            SACAC Counselling



Fear-Of-Missing-Out is the constant nagging, anxiety-provoking and sometimes paralysing notion that one is losing out on something more valuable happening elsewhere.

FOMO sufferers feel that others are having better, more enriching or more fun experiences or objects than them and the fear of falling behind or falling short can lead to anxiety, unhappiness and dissatisfaction. In a small, healthy dose FOMO can provide the motivation and drive to engage proactively with and get more out of life. However, on the flipside FOMO fuels insecurity, lowers confidence and makes people minimize / dismiss their own accomplishments. Social media today plays a great role in being a constant reminder of the apparently #Instagram-worthy moments everybody except you is enjoying. At times FOMO also stems from a problem of plenty – having too many lucrative opportunities or options to choose from and not being prepared to risk letting go of something to choose another.

As a coping mechanism, people often end up taking on more and more activities or tasks on their plate which can consequently lead to overwhelm, fatigue, sleep disruptions, mood swings and burn out. Some of the following tips can help be an antidote:

Remember, appearances can be deceptive. Do not believe everything you see on social media. Just because it looks like the others are having these amazing experiences and living it up, doesn’t mean that’s the whole truth. In reality, almost everyone is struggling with challenges too, though they may post about only what’s going well [probably filtered to exaggeration]. Get in touch with your values – make a list of what’s important to you and why, what gives you joy, what gives your life meaning – do more of these – these experiences will provide the fulfilment and satisfaction which will fill the void of FOMO. Find your individuality instead of trying to do everything that others seem to be doing (refer to values to discover the same). Choose quality over quantity. Instead of hoarding experiences and constantly needing more to feel good enough, invest in quality experiences which add value to your life and help you in becoming the person you want to be.

Identify your priorities and your limitations. Accept that you are merely human – with finite capacities of time, energy and attention – so streamline your goals and desires. Make the most efficient use of your resources to reach your most important goals and build yourself up for success rather than disappointment. Optimize by planning and scheduling – use SMART goals and time management techniques to optimize your day and attend to your priorities. Say NO – set boundaries and limits and avoid over-scheduling yourself. Take time to rest – your body and mind need rest to cope with all the pressure and the adrenaline you’re putting it through.  Practice the art of gratitude. Remember the hard work it has taken to get where you are – appreciate and enjoy the fruits of your labour instead of only looking at the next milestone. Gratitude begets joy. Try Mindfulness – the very opposite perhaps of FOMO. Give it a shot! This articles provides some easy ways to start.

Written by:
Mahima Gupta Didwania
Registered Clinical Psychologist                                                                      SACAC Counselling

Teens Suicide: What Parents Need To Know

Most teens, at some point in their lives, have experienced feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and distress. These feelings may escalate into suicidal thoughts if they remain unnoticed by parents and close family members.

Teens suicide can be prevented if parents are aware of its risk factors, warning signs and how they can better support their children.

What makes teens vulnerable to suicide?

  • Mental health issues such as depression (with an overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness), bipolar disorder, and anxiety
  • Stressful life circumstances such as moving, parents’ divorce or separation, financial changes, bullying or cyber bullying in an unsupportive environment
  • Lack of a support network due to ongoing conflict with close friends or family members, which results on young people feeling isolated
  • Alcohol and/or drug use
  • Family history of depression or suicidal behaviour
  • Exposure to emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
  • Being uncertain of sexual orientation
  • The influence of Social Media:  some unhealthy games and Chat Forums on the Social Media would rather suggest committing suicide as a way of showing bravery or dealing with life stressors

Look out for warning signs

Distressed teens may succeed in hiding their pain, however, clues to how they are truly feeling can be noticeable by their families and friends:

  • Talking about death and hinting that they might not be around anymore
  • Pulling away from family and friends, and losing of interest in taking part in hobbies or activities
  • Lack of focus on school work
  • Low self-esteem and self-hatred statement as: “everyone would be better off without me.”
  • Giving away treasured belongings
  • Hinting about suicide in emails or on the Social Media

Helping you suicidal teen: Dos and Don’ts

It’s important that parents see warning signs of suicide as serious and not as “attention-seeking” behaviour.

  • Maintain an open communication with your teen (or start it now if communication between the two of you has been poor in the past) and show your concern, support, and love
  • Ask openly if they are thinking of killing themselves
  • If your teen talks to you, do no minimise the issue, this will increase their sense of hopelessness.
  • Do not be judgmental about suicide
  • Contact your teens’ school and ask to learn their Digital Literacy Programme if your teen is active online
  • Regularly accompany your teen to see a counsellor/doctor

As parents, it is also important to look after yourself by talking to trusted friends about the issue and learning to relax and deal with your stress. Parenting, after all, is never a smooth journey!

Written by
Sanaa Lundgren
MS (Counselling)
MS (PolSci)
Collaborative Family Practitioner (SMC)

Raising Adaptable Kids

Parents, do you wish that your kids were a little more considerate and accommodating ? In other words, wish that they would be less upset and fussy when situations are different than usual ? Are your stays stress-free when visiting family back home ? Unfortunately, cranky, fussy and whiny kids tend to make your stay far from enjoyable. The good news is that, it’s possible to instill sense of adaptability in your child’s life.

Living abroad with extremely busy lives, often creates a world of structure, routines and schedules. These results in  a mostly predictable  lives and routines. As  children grow up, we hope that these early experiences will be internalized, and that they will emerge strong in a world of flux and change. But is that actually happening?

Tips on raising adaptability kids:

1) Keeping a positive attitude: If parents are positive during transitions, it’s more likely your kids will be too. When in a new country, the likelihood of a child adapting e.g. enjoying the local delicacies, connecting with the culture and people will happen if it’s modeled by the  parents.

2) Avoid casting routines in stone: It’s good to have routines but avoid  following  like the Bible. It’s ok to change routines occasionally giving the child the opportunity to adapt to it. It may be a challenge initially, but things settle soon.

3) Be firm: Avoid accommodating to your child’s every demand. Encourage alternatives by talking to your child. This helps develop both discipline and flexibility.

4) Trying new things: Exposing your kids to new people, foods and environments from time to time. There is nothing better than teaching your kids about the world while exposing them to new things often.

Change, uncertainty, and transition are realities of life. The extent to which children effectively respond to these realities can have a significant bearing on their life course. An encouraging fact is that research and practice have shown that children can be flexible, resilient and adaptable little humans, unless their environment prevents them from being so. Nature certainly plays a role in determining your little one’s personality, but let’s not forget the power of nurture. With time and practice, you can be successful in teaching your little dictator “the art of flexibility”.

Written by Vinti Mittal

Clinical Member of SAC, SAC Registered Counsellor, CMSAC, Reg CLR

MS (Counselling), Grad. Cert (Counselling),

PGDCA (Comp Sci). BSc (Hons)