Getting gritty with Dr Hazel Harrison

Dr Hazel Harrison has been collaborating with Unmind since just after we launched. We thought we'd catch up with Hazel to find out a little bit about her and her most recent Unmind Series, "Getting Gritty"...

Hazel, please tell us more about yourself and what drew you to psychology in the first place?

I’m a Clinical Psychologist, and I’m on a mission to share the psychological science that could enhance people’s lives. I split my week between working in a busy NHS clinic and working with businesses, schools and charities, offering training on wellbeing and mental health topics. I was drawn to psychology when I first started studying it at school. I had some great teachers who inspired my curiosity in this area, and I always wanted to learn more. The journey to becoming a Clinical Psychologist is quite a long one and does require a fair amount of grit. But throughout that process, I was able to work in settings where I could see the benefits that psychology can bring to people’s lives and this has continued to be the driving force in my career path.

Can you tell us about any particular sources of inspiration you drew on in creating 'Getting Gritty'?

I’m a really big fan of Angela Duckworth’s work. I read her book ‘Grit’ a couple of years ago and love this idea that it’s possible for us to learn the science behind how to keep working towards difficult goals. It’s so tempting for us to give up when things become hard, and what I love about the theories behind grit is the way we can shift our mindset. For example, we can decide to start believing that something being ‘hard’ is not a signal to give up, but often a sign that we’re working towards a goal that’s difficult.

I’ve also used some ideas from Anders Erikson’s research. His book ‘Peak - how all of us can achieve extraordinary things’ is a fascinating read, it’s like a cross between a ‘how to’ manual and the Guinness Book of Records.

What do you hope people will gain from this Series?

I hope people will gain meaningful knowledge about the science behind how we achieve our goals, particularly the difficult/challenging ones. Over the course of the series we cover lots of different areas, including how to develop a sense of purpose in your goals and why your goals matter to you, as well as the science of deliberate practice, a technique we can use to help us practice in a way that makes it more likely we’ll improve. And if I’m being really ambitious, I hope that people will work through the Series and feel inspired to go out and do something they’ve been meaning to do for a while, having all the tools to make success most likely.

What are your top 3 tips to help people become more 'gritty'?

1) Be clear on exactly what you’re working towards and what you need to do to get there. Breaking your goals down into smaller steps can be very helpful.

2) Surround yourself with people who want you to achieve your goals and can support you when things get tough.

3) Be kind to yourself. You might be tempted to think that being gritty means being hard on yourself all the time, it doesn’t. In fact, you may even find you’re more likely to reach your goals if you’re a little kinder to yourself.

Finally, please tell us something interesting about yourself!

Last Summer I decided to test my own levels of gritty-ness and attempt something I believed I’d never be able to do. You might be expecting me to say something amazing here, maybe even life-changing, but sometimes, building your grit muscles can come from smaller things too. My goal was to solve the Rubik’s cube. Ever since I was a child, I’d been fascinated with this puzzle toy, but never really understood it and believed it was only geniuses who could solve it. What I didn’t understand when I was a child, is that the Rubik’s cube, just like many skills we may want to master, can be broken down into smaller steps. Once you’ve mastered one step, you can then move on to the next. I’m proud to say I can now complete a Rubik’s cube although I probably won’t be breaking any records for speed…yet.

Thanks, Hazel. We look forward to your next Unmind Series!

You can find our more about Hazel here.

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