How to Find Your Interest Using Grit

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Grit" by Angela Duckworth. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you want to know how to find your interest? How can grit help you learn about what you’re interested in?

In order to learn how to find your interest, you need to be comfortable exploring. Grit can help you learn and develop your interests.

Keep reading to find out how to find your interest.

How to Find Your Interest

Being interested by your pursuit is the beginning of developing grit. Paragons of grit say, “I love what I do. I can’t wait to get on with the next project.” They’re doing things not because they’re forced to.

Grit cannot truly exist without interest. People who are not intrinsically interested in an activity will not work as hard or achieve as much as people who are. So how do you know how to find your interest?

Research suggests that people are more satisfied and more effective at their jobs when they do something that fits their personal interests. For instance, if you prefer interacting with people, you’ll perform better as a salesperson than as a data entry clerk. Unfortunately, only 13% of adults consider themselves engaged at work.

What this means is that most people are not working in the place of their greatest interest. Of course, not every interest can lead to a sustainable career for most people (like playing videogames or reading books), but there ways to match attributes of a career to people’s preferences.

Duckworth argues that high-achieving gritty people stick with an interest and have fewer career changes than low-grit people. 

How to Find Your Interests in Life

Part of the problem is an unrealistic expectation around how interests are discovered. People expect to find something that just clicks and fall head-over-heels in love with “their passion,” just as in romance. 

This doesn’t happen in most cases. Instead, passion needs to be developed. It starts with discovery, followed by development, then a lifetime of deepening. You shouldn’t expect your passion to materialize suddenly one day – if you believe this, then you’ll flit from interest to interest, never giving one the shot it deserves to develop into passion.

A few guidelines around how to find your interests in life:

  • You shouldn’t expect to discover your interest early in life or right out of college – many people find their life’s work after trying lots of different things. 
  • Interests rely on trying things and receiving more information. You shouldn’t expect to arrive at your passion solely by introspection. You can’t simply will yourself to like things. 
  • Ironically, it’s harder to feel when you’re interested. When you’re excited, you’re distracted by your task and thus not focusing on your level of interest. But if you’re bored, you’re painfully aware of your boredom.

Next, interest deepens after engaging with an activity over time. Through repeated exposures to your interest, you discover fascinating subtleties and facets that you would never find if you didn’t stick with it. (Shortform note: This may be related to the Dunning-Kruger effect – when you know nothing, you think you know everything, which makes the task seem boring.) Eventually, your desire for mastery and continuous improvement becomes the driving force to continue engaging with the interest. 

How to Discover an Interest If You Don’t Have One

Ask yourself questions: What do you like to think about? Where does your mind wander? What matters most to you? How do you enjoy spending your time? What did you dislike most about your last job or project? These are important questions if you want to figure out how to find your interests in life.

Armed with a general direction, go out and try things. Trigger your interests with related activities. Don’t be afraid to guess.

After trying things, don’t be afraid to change direction based on more data. 

Once you find an interest, keep digging. Keep asking questions about the craft. Seek out other people with the same interest. Find a supportive mentor. Combat the disappearance of novelty by appreciating the nuance.

Interests and Parenting

Interests thrive when encouraging supporters, like parents and coaches, provide positive feedback and ongoing stimulation to nurture the interest.

For parents, Duckworth argues that childhood is too early to detect interests. People only start to gravitate to general interests in middle school age. Also, forcing a passion doesn’t work. Allow open play to discover and retrigger interests, before enforcing discipline. This will develop intrinsic motivation. [Consider this like starting a fire with an ember – blow it gently to get hotter and light the kindling, don’t smother it.]

How to Find Your Interest Using Grit

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Angela Duckworth's "Grit" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Grit summary:

  • How your grit can predict your success
  • The 4 components that make up grit
  • Why focusing on talent means you overlook true potential

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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