Every person on this planet is looking for two things–happiness and success. But as much as we might wish it, the desire to achieve goals and find joy isn’t enough to manifest these things in our lives.
Forget desire. Forget inspiration. What you really need is dedication. In order to achieve your dreams, you must have grit.
Perseverance Over Platitudes
Grit isn’t just an empty platitude thrown around by self-styled self-help gurus. The power of dedication and perseverance is actually backed up by scientific research. In fact, University of Pennsylvania psychologist and MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant winner Angela Duckworth believes grit gives a better indication of a child’s possible future success and happiness than even his or her IQ score — and her research backs it up.
Grit comes down to two things: passion and perseverance for long-term goals. Duckworth’s study of West Point cadets found that these two attributes were the strongest predictors of a candidate’s future success–well beyond reaction times, physical ability, and overall knowledge.
This is an insight that has shaped my interactions with my own kids. In an effort to ensure they live happy, successful lives, I try to instill in them that dedication and focus they need to achieve their goals–motivating, not pushing.
After all, if you rely on outside motivation (i.e., pushing) to convince you to take some action, you won’t know whether it’s the right thing to do. Self-awareness is key to success, and self-awareness plus grit is the ultimate winning combination. Grit is that little speck of sand inside the oyster that turns into a pearl.
How to Grow Your Grit
It’s great to know the value of grit, but how do we acquire it? Developing this passion and perseverance comes down to just three simple mantras:
1. “I don’t wait to ‘find’ my passions; I cultivate them.”
If grit is equal parts passion and perseverance, then finding one’s passion would seem to be the grit seeker’s job No. 1. Not so, say psychologists from Stanford University and Yale-NUS College in Singapore. In a recent study, they found that those study participants who considered their passions “fixed” and just waiting to be discovered were likely to give up on a new interest when it became too challenging to master easily.
Instead of hoping that your passion will simply reveal itself eventually, adopt what the study’s authors call a “growth mindset.” Experiment with a variety of activities–and expect slow going at first. Only by putting in active effort will you discover whether a passing fancy could become an all-consuming love.
2. “I don’t have a job. I have a calling.”
Grit isn’t just about being a hard worker. It’s about digging in and finding meaning in what you do–especially as it relates to helping others. The conviction that our work matters can help build habits, encourage forward momentum, and provide the motivation necessary to overcome obstacles.
With a focus on the meaning behind our work, we no longer just have a job. We have a calling. If you asked me what I’m doing at this exact moment, I could say, “I’m writing an article,” “I’m educating others,” or “I’m instilling in others a drive to pursue their goals.” The third extends beyond the superficial and into the realm of true conviction.
Keep in mind that purpose won’t appear overnight. You need to pursue and create your purpose. To do this, try remembering why you work. Are you passionate about what your company accomplishes? Is your work helping to support people you care about? Take time to reflect and consider how your work is contributing to something bigger than yourself.
3. “I wield hope as a powerful weapon.”
People with grit have a hope that’s based on drive and making things happen rather than mere luck. “Grit depends on a different kind of hope,” Duckworth explains in her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. “It rests on the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future. I have a feeling tomorrow will be better is different from I resolve to make tomorrow better.”
Part of working toward a long-term goal is understanding that speed bumps, obstacles, and failures are inevitable parts of the journey. By embracing these as specific learning opportunities that strengthen our resolve and our ability to succeed as we continue forward, it allows us to achieve even greater success. Hope can turn setbacks into stepping-stones that help us reach greater heights. Learning to bounce back from failure can help you develop this unique type of hope.
Without the effort to back it up, talent is nothing more than wasted ability. Focus first on cultivating the determination, perseverance, and passion that you need to make your journey successful, then just start moving. Your dreams will be in sight faster than you might believe.
Nellie Bowles, in an article on Re/Code, writes about the tragic suicides of three entrepreneurs involved in The Downtown Project in Las Vegas.
Their stories show the potentially extreme isolation and psychological impact of entrepreneurship.
Although the buzz about entrepreneurship continues to grow, in reality, more than 70% of ventures fail. Most entrepreneurs make a lot less money than if they worked for someone else. The road to success is often long and lonely — brutal hours, massive amounts of stress, and a huge amount of personal sacrifice. And in some cases, failure takes an unimaginable toll, such as ending one’s life.
I believe we need much more conversation about the psychological makeup and impact of entrepreneurship.
So, let’s first summarize why would anyone want to become an entrepreneur ?
To survive: They have no other choice.
To pursue a dream: They want to fulfill their personal and/or financial dreams.
To make a difference: They want to make a difference, to do something that has a positive and long-lasting impact.
Those who survive and ultimately thrive in their entrepreneurial journeys have one thing in common: It’s called “grit.” It is the courage, the resiliency, and the power within each of them — not the circumstances outside — that keeps them moving. This is the topic of the next book I’m coauthoring with Lydia Dishman .
Angela Duckworth , assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and her colleagues in their research define grit as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” It’s now believed to be the most important trait of successful people, and Duckworth writes that “the gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina.”
I believe grit is an attitude; it’s your belief that you can conquer anything. It’s not giving up, nor giving in. It’s the ability to go from days to weeks to months to years to reach your destination as you define it. To me GRIT stands for:
Trusting your gut
Gut refers to instinct. It’s the ability to jump into something based on your feelings without knowing all the facts. It’s how we tap into our subconscious mind to guide ourselves.
When something is right, the choice often becomes strangely easy. It feels natural; you are not forcing it; there is not a lot of conflict. When something is not right, if you are really tuned in to yourself, your body reacts to it. You feel it in your stomach.
The trick is to develop “guts,” the courage to trust yourself to choose the right path. Every time I have failed, it started with me going against my gut. Like anything else, trusting your gut comes from awareness, devotion, and confidence. In this case it is your emotional self.
(Read one of my previous posts, “7 Ways To Build Your Courage Against Impossible Odds,” for more on the topic.)
Confucius famously said, “The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.”
The noun “resilience” stems from the Latin resilience, which means “to rebound, recoil.” As a character trait, resilience is a person’s mental ability to recover quickly from misfortune, illness, or depression.
Entrepreneur or not, life eventually throws everyone a major curve ball. Professional and personal failures and rejections, health issues, accidents, natural disasters: each needs to be approached with resiliency in order to survive and then thrive.
Resilient people develop a mental capacity that allows them to adapt with ease during adversity, bending like the green reed instead of breaking like the mighty oak. They possess a set of powerful traits.
(Read one of my previous posts, “Bend, Not Break: 9 Powerful Traits of Resilient People,” for more on the topic.)
Invent and reinvent, again and again.
In this ever-changing world, we are constantly forced to reinvent ourselves. And this reinvention process by its very nature is the essence of the entrepreneurial mindset, one that is “purposefully omnivorous.” It allows one to learn from diverse perspectives. Entrepreneurs need traveling companions that can relate to their experiences and support their suffering.
In rough waters, when we feel there is no one to call upon for help, it is ultimately our skills that save us. We master our skills by constantly pushing ourselves with devoted effort — devotion that allows us to craft our authentic calling by connecting the dots between our inner world and outer world. You have to stay in the game in order to win. Entrepreneurs find a way to press on! You have to invent and reinvent again and again.
As Theodore Roosevelt said:
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.
So my friends, be bold and dare greatly!
(Read one of my previous posts, “How To Reinvent Yourself with An Entrepreneurial Mindset,” for more on the topic.)
Tenacity is the commitment to your purpose. Gandhi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
We fail when we give up. It takes a lot longer to succeed than it usually seems on the surface. We live in a world where instant gratification is the name of the game, and the definition of success is overblown.
The meaning of success should be driven by the sense of our individual purpose. Executing that success requires taking the next step, every day, no matter how hard it may be. Tenacity means to keep looking for the answer though the darkness of despair is all around.
As Bangali Poet Rabindranath Tagore said, “I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door — or I’ll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present.”
It’s this ability to get up again and again that makes the difference.
(Read one of my previous posts, “How Lego Survived Against All Odds — And You Can, Too” for more on the topic.)
In his article, “Founder Suicides,” which pointed me to Nellie Bowles’ story on the Las Vegas tragedies, Brad Feld writes, “It’s OK to fail. It’s OK to lose. It’s OK to be depressed.” It’s encouraging to see that conversations about the psychological impacts of entrepreneurship are happening.
I try to deal with my adversities and setbacks with “grit” day in and day out. I hope you do the same, as the world needs entrepreneurs more than ever.
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My grandmother was born on the kitchen table, had a special baseball cap reserved just for wearing into town and once confused Dom Perignon with a mafia leader. She told me to “suck it up” when I complained about my teachers.
I resented the fact that she didn’t take my side when I came home crying that Mrs. Archie ordered — not asked — me to finish my math homework.
It wasn’t that Grandma couldn’t be sweet when she wanted, it was more than she did not suffer fools. She knew that learning can be tough and didn’t have time to waste on a cry-baby who couldn’t take a few knocks.
My grandmother had grit.
Grit is a mindset that means it’s something that it can be developed over time. Once we realize that we have control over the way we think about our obstacles, we have the power to find opportunities in the midst of our adversity. Grit is hefted with determination and resilience. It’s also an unwavering faith to follow through on what we’ve started because it’s something we believe in and is important to us.
People with grit want to better themselves rather than complain about what they don’t have in life. They have the kick-butt attitude that most of us need in today’s world if we want to succeed. A person with a grit-up approach is equipped with tools and strategies to deal with setbacks.
Here are reasons grit can be important to your success:
1. Success doesn’t depend on talent
Not everyone may agree with my grandmother’s attitude toward life, but science is actually proving that grit is a far more reliable predictor of success than intelligence. If you have grit, you’re brave and strong enough to do what it takes to succeed in business and life. It’s a powerful force that allows you to stand out from the crowd even though your skills may not be exceptional.
Psychology professor Angela Duckworth finds that grit — defined as passion and perseverance for long-term goals — is an important predictor of success, if not the only one. In fact, grit is unrelated, or even negatively correlated, with talent. When working with West Point cadets, she found that those who scored higher in grit had the mental toughness to keep going when times got tough.
The high score on grit surpassed other tests such as SAT scores, IQ, class rank, leadership, and physical aptitude when it came to predicting retention rates.
How to make it work for you: It takes more than talent and it takes more than skill. It takes effort. Here is Duckworth’s formula:
- Talent X Effort = Skill
- Skill X Effort = Achievement
Without effort, even the most skilled and talented people in the world will never accomplish anything.
2. Work with a sense of purpose
Grit requires an intrinsic desire to go beyond what can easily be accomplished with talent or skill. This requires a deep sense of purpose because we believe our work is worth it.
If forced to work this hard, we could just put in the minimum and call it good. That, folks, is where most people land. They may be skilled, but they don’t have grit because their heart isn’t in it. They’re not motivated to go beyond what can easily be achieved with their talent.
How to make it work for you: Take the time to connect with your higher purpose. Despite all those slick advertisements and what you see in movies, it isn’t all about the fastest car or the biggest paycheck. Purpose will require you to find value in yourself and discover how you can contribute to the well-being of others.
3. Get better every day
A grit mindset never forgets that there are always opportunities to improve, no matter how good you may already be. This way of thinking gives people a leg up when confronted with an obstacle because defeat is never the default.
For many people, what stands in the way often becomes the way. A setback is not looked at as an opportunity to improve themselves; instead, it unfolds as their new path, regardless of whether it takes them where they want to go.
Eric Kandel, who shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology in 2000, discovered the phenomenon of synaptic plasticity. As we try something new, we have to work at it to develop the skill. The nerve cells involved in that learning process fire a neurotransmitter to get the process started. The more effort we exert, the larger the synapses become and the connections strengthen.
The more we stress our brain, those neural pathways get stronger. That is why practice — the repeated firing of neurons — leads to improved performance.
We rarely embrace hard work that stresses our brain, but our brain actually get stronger from it. James Loehr, an expert on peak performance, says, “Stress (in moderation) is not the enemy in our life; paradoxically, it’s the key to growth.”
How to make it work for you: Once you’ve found a pursuit that fills you with purpose, put in the work to get better at it every day. Compete with yourself so that you’re a bit better today than yesterday.
4. Learn to fail well
To get the job done on our Wyoming cattle ranch, I had to learn the best way to do it. Often, I had to try several ways to get the job done before I found a way that did work.
I didn’t label those attempts as failure. Instead, each iteration took me closer to finding a solution. It wasn’t until I was hit in the face with college entrance exams and job performance appraisals that failure took on such an ominous meaning.
When I was younger, I was told that failure and trying again was simply part of the learning process. Failure presented a “problem” to be worked out and it was often a game of trying something new that might work.
I grew up believing in the power of Plan B. My grandmother knew how to brush off failure and take the steps necessary to try again. Stupidity, in her eyes, was to go back and repeat the same mistakes. And yes, expect a different result. Her second, third, or fourth attempts were transitions from failure to success.
How to make it work for you: Many people look at failure as the F-word and avoid it if possible. Instead, look at your failure as fertile training ground for future improvement. List everything you learned from the experience. List all the insights and lessons gained as well as all that went wrong, and why. It’s only a painful memory if you don’t grow from the experience.
An athlete who wins an Olympic medal.
A cadet who passes basic training.
A student who earns a high GPA.
What do these people have in common?
Talent or intelligence may have been the first answers to come to mind, but there’s another less conspicuous factor that runs strong in these individuals: grit.
Grit is “the sustained perseverance and passion for long-term goals,” according to Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth, a researcher studying achievement at the University of Pennsylvania who won a MacArthur “Genius Grant” in 2013.
Grit is not a new concept; we’ve known for decades that talent or intelligence alone does not automatically translate to high achievement. In the 1920s, Stanford graduate student Catharine Cox read the biographies of 300 famous geniuses—including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Leonardo da Vinci, and Charles Darwin—and determined that certain qualities differentiated those who accomplished enough to change the world: the tendency not to abandon tasks for novelty and the tendency not to abandon tasks in the face of obstacles. In other words, even the world’s most renowned geniuses had to consistently work toward their goals and overcome adversity in order to accomplish great things.
As researchers continue to study grit in the 21st century, we’re gaining an understanding of just how significant grit may be in terms of achievement—potentially equal to or even more significant than talent or intelligence. According to Duckworth, grit is the most accurate predictor of whether cadets will finish basic training at West Point—more so than SAT, GPA, extracurricular activities, and physical aptitude combined.
Duckworth notes that a common misconception about grit involves emphasizing resilience while overlooking the need to nurture consistent passion over the long term. In reality, grit involves both. People are gritty both when they choose to devote their time and effort to a pursuit and when they overcome obstacles to do so.
Given grit’s potential power to shape young people’s lives, educators are understandably interested in learning how to help students develop this characteristic. Schools across the country, including the KIPP public-charter school network, are creating curricula and implementing programs to help students become grittier.
A focus on character has been a cornerstone of KIPP since its inception, and still composes the essence of its beliefs: To succeed in college and the world beyond, KIPPsters need both a strong academic foundation and well-developed character strengths. KIPP’s character work focuses on the seven strengths—including grit—that are critical for an engaged, happy, and successful life, and was developed in collaboration with Duckworth and others. These strengths are:
Zest: Enthusiastic and energetic participation in life
Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals
Optimism: Confidence in a future full of positive possibilities
Self-control: The capacity to regulate one’s own responses so they align with short- and long-term goals
Gratitude: Appreciation for the benefits we receive from others, and the desire to express thanks
Social intelligence: Understanding the feelings of others and adapting actions accordingly
Curiosity: Eagerness to explore new things with openness
As more research is published, educators will continue to refine how they address grit in the classroom. Below are just a few examples of things you can do to help your students develop the perseverance and passion they need to achieve long-term goals.
Avoid the “grass is always greener” mentality
Help students focus on the tasks in front of them and resist “grass is always greener” thinking. This will help them persevere through difficulty rather than losing interest in the challenge. You may say things like, “This math problem is challenging, but that means we need to focus even more instead of skipping ahead to the next one. Let’s work together to figure it out.”
Identify and focus on student passions
Help students identify and focus on their passions—something most adults need help doing as well. The deliberate, consistent practice involved in becoming good at a skill will help an individual develop grit, but the person must also be passionate enough about honing the skill to put in the needed time and effort. Pose questions like “If you had a whole day free, what would you have the most fun doing?” or “When you were little, what did you dream about doing or becoming?” To encourage students’ passions, you could also do things like commission a classroom mural from a student who doodles in his notebook or check out a library book on cartooning for him.
Praise effort and perseverance over getting the right answer
Praising effort, perseverance, and learning over getting the right answer encourages students to value the hard work behind achievements. However, right answers still matter, and praising effort should not overshadow this. Say things like, “That feeling of math being hard is the feeling of your brain growing.”
Have students explain their thought processes
Ask students to explain their thought processes in relation to what worked and what didn’t. This will train them to become flexible, creative thinkers who can overcome obstacles. Say things like, “The point isn’t to get it all right away—the point is to grow your understanding step by step. What can you try next?”
Resist giving unchallenged praise
When students do something quickly and easily, resist the temptation to praise them. Instead, tell them, “I’m sorry I wasted your time on something too easy for you. Let’s do something you can learn from.” This shows students that learning something new and growing their brains is more important than easily getting the right answer.
If you would like to learn more about grit, watch Angela Lee Duckworth’s TEDx talk or take her grit test.
Free Book Preview: Unstoppable
So many things go into making a successful entrepreneur, it can be a fool’s errand to attempt to figure out what is, or is not, essential.
That’s because so few entrepreneurial paths overlap. Some high-achieving entrepreneurs have multiple Ivy League degrees while others never finish high school. Others may work for years on a single idea, while another group will start dozens of unsuccessful ventures until one finally hits.
So, yes, there may be no single, truly indispensable element of entrepreneurship. But one thing is pretty close: When you talk to and work with enough entrepreneurs, the main theme that emerges is persistence. Some researchers call it grit.
I’ve even known people who have called it stick-to-it-ness. Whatever name is used, the idea is the same: the tenacity to not throw in the towel.
Omer Shai, the CMO of Wix.com, summed it up well. Wix is a company which has helped millions of people start their own online businesses and projects, so Shai has had some experience with grit. He said: “Starting something isn’t enough. The ability to persevere and be resilient after that something has been started is the true stamp of an entrepreneur. It’s the people who stay the course and continue to invest in developing their enterprise beyond the starting point that should be the model for successful entrepreneurship. “
In entrepreneurship, grit is an “outlier” skill or attribute because it may just be the one skill without which failure is pretty much assured. In other words, it’s possible to succeed in business or the workforce or as an entrepreneur if you’re not creative. Or if you don’t collaborate well, or have not really learned to be adaptive and flexible. All three are important parts of an entrepreneurship mindset.
But if you are not at least modestly persistent or stubborn, and you tend to quit easily, you’re done — even if you are creative and collaborative and adaptive. Lack of grit is the entrepreneurship killer.
What also makes grit so important is that, unlike other things you often hear about why entrepreneurs succeed, grit is a skill that can be learned. People can learn to be more resilient and less impacted by setbacks.
That grit is a skill sets it apart from other things entrepreneurship talk focuses on: luck, good connections and family support. That’s not to undercut the importance of other factors, but if you weren’t blessed with a strong and supportive family network, that’s not something you can find on your own.
Grit, however, can be developed. The skill of grit, in fact, is such an important thing, and such a big topic among academics and practitioners, that just one TED Talk on the subject has registered almost 6.5 million views. That talk by Angela Lee Duckworth has become so popular — both inside and outside of entrepreneurship — that she’s a bona fide VIP celebrity on the topics of success, innovation and persistence. The truth is, she was expert on these topics before that TED Talk. She’s just better known now.
Thanks to Duckworth, and others, the importance of persistence and determination is also now better known.
And that’s a good thing. Elevating the importance of grit for success is essential because, unlike something like communication skills, grit is a difficult thing to practice: You can never be sure how far from success you are, so it’s a challenge to measure improvement. And there aren’t really many good exercises to prepare you to be more, um, gritty.
Instead, one of the best things we can do to instill grit and persistence in future entrepreneurs is to stress — over and over again — how important it is.
We need role models in and out of business who’ll talk about their failures and setbacks and, in doing so, underscore the precious nature of grit. Ranking what’s really indispensable for entrepreneurs might not be possible or even helpful. But, if it were, my sense is that grit would be pretty near the top of any such list. Even if you are not an aspiring entrepreneur, grit is an attribute that will help turn any goal you have into reality.
by Caren Baruch-Feldman, PhD, author of The Grit Guide for Teens
To make sure that we’re all on the same page, here is a basic definition of grit, developed by Angela Duckworth, the psychologist and researcher who coined the term: Grit is passion and perseverance for long term and meaningful goals.
Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals.
It is the ability to persist in something you feel passionate about and persevere when you face obstacles. This kind of passion is not about intense emotions or infatuation. It’s about having direction and commitment. When you have this kind of passion, you can stay committed to a task that may be difficult or boring.
Grit is also about perseverance. To persevere means to stick with it; to continue working hard even after experiencing difficulty or failure.
What can you do to help boost grit?
Research indicates that the ability to be gritty—to stick with things that are important to you and bounce back from failure—is an essential component of success independent of and beyond what talent and intelligence contribute (Duckworth 2016).
Why is grit important?
I’m going to say it again because it’s worth repeating, and goes against what we’re taught in school and in our social circles. Grit is important because it is a driver of achievement and success, independent of and beyond what talent and intelligence contribute. Being naturally smart and talented are great, but to truly do well and thrive, we need the ability to persevere. Without grit, talent may be nothing more than unmet potential. It is only with effort that talent becomes a skill that leads to success (Duckworth 2016).
Without grit, talent may be nothing more than unmet potential.
So how can we (I include myself here as a therapist) help our clients become grittier? Not by demanding that they pull themselves up by their bootstraps or by setting unreasonable expectations and assuming teens can meet them all on their own. For teens to grow their grit, we need therapists like you to help them get there.
What can you do to help boost grit?
Caren Baruch-Feldman, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and a certified school psychologist. She has authored numerous articles and led workshops on topics such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques, helping children and adults cope with stress and worry, helping people change, and developing grit and self-control. She is the author of The Grit Guide for Teens.
Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (New York: Scribner, 2016).
W hen Angela Duckworth talks about grit, most people assume she just means persistence—but there’s more to it than that, the MacArthur “Genius” Award winner and professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania told Motto. “I do mean hard work and not quitting things when they’re hard, but I also mean passion,” said Duckworth, who became interested in the subject while teaching middle school and high school students and realizing that the most talented ones often weren’t the ones who performed the best academically. Duckworth has since gone on to give the wildly popular TED Talk “The key to success? Grit” and is the author of the new book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.
“Getting anywhere in life, doing anything worth doing, it just takes so much effort,” she said. “If things were easier, then maybe we wouldn’t need grit. But I think most things that are worth doing take a long time and that sustained commitment. There are no shortcuts to true excellence.”
The good news is that grit isn’t like eye color or shoe size—it’s not something you’re born with. “I think people can learn to be gritty, I really do,” said Duckworth.
Here, four signs that you have grit—along with Duckworth’s advice for how to address any areas in which you may need a little help.
1. You have something you find enduringly fascinating
If you had to name one pursuit or interest with which you think you could never get bored, could you do it? If you’re drawing a blank, Duckworth recommends reflecting on what your hobbies were as a teenager. “Many, many individuals will report starting to form their lifelong interests around adolescence,” said Duckworth. “Why that is, researchers don’t fully know. But if you can take a trip down memory lane and see what interested you, that’s at least a clue as to where your interest may begin to develop.”
2. You view frustrations as a necessary part of the process
Many people get upset if they make mistakes or face setbacks—and then they give up. But this prevents them from putting in the work necessary to reach their end-goals. “When you look at people practicing, you find they make tons and tons of mistakes,” said Duckworth. “It’s by making those mistakes that you get better. Making mistakes and failing are normal—in fact, they’re necessary.” By reframing how you view mistakes, Duckworth said you can increase your grittiness. “Negative feelings are typical of learning, and you shouldn’t feel like you’re stupid when you’re frustrated doing something,” she said. “You might say to yourself, ‘I can’t do this,’ but you should say, ‘That’s great.’ That means you really have the potential to learn something there.”
3. You look for ways to make your work more meaningful
Duckworth cites an experiment at Google, where the company asked some employees to rethink their job responsibilities ever-so-slightly in ways that would make them more filled with purpose. After they did that, employees saw increases in job satisfaction and performance. “Just thinking, ‘What can I do in small ways that would make this more meaningful?’ can help,” said Duckworth.
Are you a “goal-getter”—someone driven by achievement who puts your best food forward to ensure things get done? If so, you’re probably pretty familiar with the work ethic required to be successful.
But what if you find yourself struggling to grasp the basic motivation, joy or belief in yourself to move forward? What do you do when times get tough and personal difficulty hinders your desire to achieve?
Money, time and other precious resources pale in comparison to the wildcard we know and love called grit. Psychologist Angela Duckworth, an expert on grit, refers to it as the ability to thrive during adversity. She notes that having it is a greater predictor of success than cognitive or technical skill sets.
Know this: Your internal drive to dig deep and overcome challenges will prove your biggest asset in times of uncertainty. Grit builds resilience—especially when you are at the end of your rope and need a reason to keep going.
Got grit? If not, here’s how to build and improve it when you need it most:
1. Focus on your ‘why.’
It’s true, your desire to do something may fluctuate from time to time. You’re human, after all. You will get tired. Your immediate priorities may shift. You may even question the necessity of doing a thing at all. But, to get passed the subterfuge, you must hone in on your “why”— you know, that earth-shattering reason you made this thing a “must” to begin with? When your why is compelling, the excuses fall away. You are then able to summon grit to help you get over the “plateau of arrested development.”
2. Be your own best barometer.
Others are certainly entitled to their opinions—but this doesn’t mean you should make them yours. Embracing the unsolicited feedback of others can make it difficult to submit to your calling. Remember, this is your goal and there is a reason why you chose to achieve it. Learn to trust the wisdom of your gut. Be clear that you are working toward your own best interests and that you have performed (or will perform!) the necessary due diligence to ensure your success. Positioning yourself as your primary counsel can give you the clarity and confidence needed to move forward, especially when you find the genuine support of others to be wanting.
3. Find a quintessential reference point.
Is this the first time you’ve had to move nimbly through the trenches? Probably not. Think about a time when the odds weren’t in your favor—when you didn’t feel like things were going to work out—but they did. What was it about that situation that was different? What did you do differently? What wisdom can you glean from it and apply to the current scenario? Chances are you can haul an entire truckload of insights into your current circumstance and achieve a much-needed breakthrough. What’s more, you’ll inevitably increase your points of reference by fighting through the trenches time and time again.
4. Decide to do the work in chunks.
Nothing of value is ever created overnight. Think diamonds, medical or technological innovations—even human life. Excellence takes time. The point here is to embrace the imminent heavy lifting. Rather than capitulate, roll up your sleeves and get your mind steadied to do the work, no matter how difficult or time-consuming it may be. Instead of trying to force-feed yourself each task, break them into bite-sized pieces called “chunks.” Address them individually and delegate where necessary. You’ll find each task more approachable when compartmentalized, which is exactly the point.
When things get tough, the tough don’t get going. They instead plant their feet on solid ground and prepare for the bout by reaching for grit—an extraordinary ally, especially in times of adversity.
Grit is passion and perseverance tied to achieving meaningful goals. It is the ability to persist against all odds about something you are passionate about and to persevere when you face obstacles.
“Grit is not about intense emotions or infatuation; it is the kind of passion tied to achieving purposeful goals.”
Grit gives you the willingness to face challenges, in spite of fear. Every person has this essential personality trait by birth, but due to certain personal, domestic, and societal reasons, this trait fades away in some people. Grit is important to be successful in all aspects of life, while a lack of grit can become a hindering force to progress.
Grit is also synonyms with leading a prosperous life. The good news is that grit can be developed and increased.
First of all, it is essential to know what you want out of life and how grit will play an important role to achieve your goals. Second, it’s helpful to identify the areas where you feel unsatisfied in your life and come to grip with how your fears may not be allowing you to dream big.
“A cornerstone to activating more grit in your life, is to dare to dream big.”
Thirdly, you should set the goals for your career, relationships, and life. Write them down and set time frames to achieve them. When you have a clear idea of what you actually want, you can develop a plan to get there.
Sometimes we can’t build up our grit for action because we have failed to calculate the cost of inaction. Knowing the price that you have to pay for letting certain fears control your life leads to re-creating it to meet your needs, and knowing where, when, and how to apply grit.
Fears are not bad. They protect you against real threats, like walking too close to the edge of a cliff — the fear of falling to your death is a healthy fear.
The kind of fears worth identifying are those that at times keep you stuck. Fears of being rejected, humiliated, or found out as inadequate become a hindrance in the way of expressing yourself.
“It’s ego-based fears that we want to develop grit against.”
Acknowledging your fears is an act of grit in itself and is important to get rid of them. When you know your enemy, you can develop a plan to fight and win against it. Our enemy in life are fears, and our job is to figure out the reason they exist. Sometimes, a bad experience from the past can cause a certain fear to play out over and over in our mind, and can falter our ability to have courage, and apply grit for an entire life.
To beat the fears, after you’ve acknowledged them, you have to also recognize your strengths.
“Recognition of your strengths is equally important to knowing your fears. Everyone has some edge over both in some way.”
Recognizing your strengths will induce faith in yourself and become a positive approach that you can count on in all aspects of life.
Keeping in mind the fears, their causes and your strengths, you can then develop a concrete plan towards achieving your goals and rely on your grit to see you through.
It is impossible to get over all your fears at once, but when you know the clear direction you wish to take, you can develop a feasible plan focused on climbing the mountain, one step at a time.
Start with daily objectives, stretch them to weekly goals, and then monthly, and longer over time. Each step you take builds up your ability to develop more grit.
Certain attitudes, behaviors and thinking patterns suppress our grit. It is important to be positive in yourself. Focus on the positives and ignore the negative vibes coming from the people who are not clapping for your success.
“Never compare yourself with others, as you are unique, and have your own strengths.”
Believe in these strengths to expand your grit and take risks. Your grit would take you to the horizons of success. In case of failures along the way, embrace them. Stay calm, think about the reasons things didn’t work out, ratify them, turn them into lessons learned, and keep moving.
Many people believe that in order to be successful you have to have talent and intelligence. While those attributes are helpful, grit is the ultimate equalizer because it is a force to help you achieve success, independent of how smart or talented you are.
“To truly manifest the life you want, you need perseverance. Without grit, talent may end up being un-manifested potential.”
It is only with consistent and persistent application of effort (grit) that intelligence and talent can become skills that will lead you to success.
It’s also very helpful to have heroes in your life. When it comes to heroes you can cast the character you wish to become in the future and begin to live as if you are that hero. You can read more about how to become your own hero by clicking here.
Grit doesn’t mean doing things alone. Ask for help and ask often. Asking for help shows a level of self-awareness to our limitations, and a commitment to our growth. Rather than thinking of asking for help as a sign of weakness, see it for what it is — a commitment to growing.
Search out those that have accomplished what you are attempting to do or have tackled the issue you need help with. To get to the next level of your aspirations, you’ll need to ask help from those who have already reach that level. If you want to learn how to ask for help and get it, you can check out my previous blog by clicking here.
To recap how to develop more grit, it is crucial to know yourself. Admitting your fears and acknowledging your strengths will help you develop an action plan rooted on a positive attitude towards a more grit filled personality.
Having someone to look up to as a hero can help you develop more grit, and finally asking for help from those who have already displayed grit is a sure way to help you practice more of it and be a successful person in every aspect of your life.