What Is Grit And How Do You Cultivate It?
Building grit is an essential part of growing up and becoming the person you want to be.
Only with it do you have the courage to heed your inner voice and to stand in defense of truth, goodness, and beauty.
But mental toughness isn’t the privilege of a chosen few. It’s something we can all cultivate.
What does it mean to have grit, though? And what does grit have to do with a growth mindset?
- What is Grit?
- How to Develop Grit
- Examples of Grit
- How Grit Relates to the Growth Mindset
- Best Books on Grit and Resilience
- 1. Grit by Angela Duckworth
- 2. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
- 3. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S Dweck
- 4. Getting Grit: The New Evidence-Based Approach to Cultivating Passion, Perseverance, and Purpose by Caroline Miller
What is Grit?
Look up the word grit and you’ll see at least five characteristics associated with it:
When you have grit, you identify what you want and work doggedly toward it.
You don’t give up, even when the obstacles are many, and even when everyone around you tells you to settle for something you can reach more easily.
You keep moving forward. You have the courage and perseverance to keep working toward your goal.
You don’t trample others to get to it, but neither do you let their doubts deter you.
You were born with gifts. But in order to use them, grit is something you have to build. You know this on some level. No one gets to the finish line on gifts alone.
Whatever your upbringing and education, no one gets from childhood to their 30s without experiencing conflict. And how you handle those conflicts shapes your character, for better or for worse, as you move from one challenge to the next.
And if you’ve yet to develop true grit, it’s not too late. But where do you begin?
How to Develop Grit
Grit is about sticking to your goals and moving forward, step by step, even in the face of adversity.
Without grit, we give up when things get tough. Without it, we can talk all we want about what we plan to accomplish; it’ll never get done.
With grit, we’re more likely to just do what we intend to do rather than stop to talk about it. No one needs to hear your 10-step plan to get from point A to point B, anyway. They want to see you stepping toward your goal.
And when you’re busy talking about it, you’re not stepping.
So, what can you do to develop grit? Take action — one step at a time:
- Pursue your interests — even when it’s hard. Because some days, it will be. Pursue them anyway.
- Practice every day to hone your gifts and develop new skills. Practicing will also keep your goals foremost in your mind.
- Connect your goals to a higher purpose to make them more meaningful and to keep in mind the bigger picture of your life, your passion, and your purpose.
- Cultivate hope by choosing to believe progress is possible, as long as you keep working toward your goals. Remind yourself of the progress you’ve made so far.
- Surround yourself with examples of grit. Who are the “gritty people” in your life, and what can you learn from them? How can you apply what they’ve learned?
The more you work to reach your goals in spite of obstacles and adversity, the more you develop the mental toughness necessary to becoming all you were born to be.
Those goals don’t all have to be long-term; some of the toughest people you’ll meet show true grit in the way they consistently meet their short-term goals.
Others will show more grit with their long-term goals. Not having those goals or striving after them makes these people restless.
Many of those with real grit have connected their goals to something bigger and more meaningful than the day-to-day grind. They see a universe of significance in a moment.
And they act accordingly.
Examples of Grit
Ask anyone who comes to mind when you say the word “grit,” and you might hear the following examples:
- Civil rights activists
- Olympic athletes
- Military members and veterans
- Marathon runners
- Writers / authors
- Professional musicians
- Teachers (especially those working in the toughest schools)
Think of someone you know who has reached a long-sought goal of theirs in spite of the doubts and criticism of others and in spite of all the work required to reach it.
Maybe you see that quality in yourself. Don’t shrug it off. Real humility doesn’t downplay the good you see in yourself — any more than it inhibits your ability to see the beauty in others.
Celebrate the qualities that go well with maturity and grace. And always be on the lookout for surprising signs of grit and goodness in people who might not always be the best examples of either.
You don’t have to be best friends with them. Just be open to appreciating the good you do see — even if only from a distance.
How Grit Relates to the Growth Mindset
Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset: A New Psychology of Success, reminds us that it is possible to change your mindset for the better.
She explored the role of the growth mindset and of tenacity in student achievement and discovered four factors at the root of their perseverance and success:
- Their beliefs about themselves — i.e., their self-confidence or lack thereof
- Their goals — as well as the passion behind them
- Their feelings about social connectedness — how their behavior and achievements affected others
- Their ability to self-regulate — which relates to both self-discipline and tenacity
How do you apply these growth mindset factors to develop grit and stay the course?
1. It begins with the language you use.
Focus on advantages you can create through action and intention — rather than on more “fixed” assets such as your intelligence and your past.
2. It grows when you surround yourself with resilient people.
If you’re the average of the people you spend most of your time with, spend more time with people who exemplify the grit you want to cultivate in yourself. Learn from them.
3. It bends where you bend.
Adopt more flexible thinking habits. Flexible people don’t see obstacles as deal-breakers but as opportunities for growth and learning. Learn to see every challenge as a gift.
4. It advances with every step, however small.
Set micro-goals that align with your bigger purpose. Even tiny goals (the more you meet, the better) can lead to exponential growth in confidence, tenacity, and strength of mind.
5. It makes time for daily reflection.
Whether you prefer meditation, journaling, or taking a walk, you need to give yourself a chance to reflect on your day and what you learned from it.
Best Books on Grit and Resilience
Part of your action plan for building grit can be reading well-known and respected books on the subject. You can start with one or more of the following:
The author spoke to a variety of living examples of passion and tenacity to demonstrate that grit can be learned, regardless of IQ, talent, and circumstances. Her book shows how grit is more responsible for success than genius ever was.
2. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
The devastation she felt after losing her husband made Sheryl Sandberg doubt she would ever heal and grow beyond it. She found a way, and with co-author, Adam Grant, she shares how: when Option A is no longer available, there’s always an Option B.
In this updated bestseller, Dweck reveals the importance of a growth mindset to cultivating grit. She also distinguishes between a false growth mindset and a deeper, truer one that helps people grow through adversity and embrace challenges.
4. Getting Grit: The New Evidence-Based Approach to Cultivating Passion, Perseverance, and Purpose by Caroline Miller
Develop the critical ingredient for success and discover the true secret to satisfaction and fulfillment. The author of this practical guide can help you develop grit and strengthen it with each challenge, rewiring your brain for greater resilience and personal power.
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Start Building Grit
Who are the best grit examples in your life right now? And what have you learned from them?
What will your friends, coworkers, and the next generation learn from you?
Building grit isn’t an optional pastime or something you can set on the back burner without far-reaching consequences. It’s a matter not just of survival but of living and celebrating your truth and your purpose. It’s essential to a life well-lived.
What will you do today to build grit in yourself, to strengthen your mind, and live in a way worth emulating?
What can you do this week to pursue a passionate interest, no matter the obstacles?
Everything you do to model grit for others can help them cultivate it within themselves.
May your courage repay you and your loved ones in this life and beyond.