What is Grit?

The technical definition

Grit is a personality trait possessed by individuals who demonstrate passion and perseverance toward a goal despite being confronted by significant obstacles and distractions.  Those who possess grit are able to self-regulate and postpone their need for positive reinforcement while working diligently on a task.

Huh, what does that mean?

For years, psychologists have attempted to locate the “miracle formula” needed to achieve our dreams.  Many have hypothesized that goal actualization comes to those who possess remarkable skill, innate talent, superior genes, or possibly a high IQ; others believe that achievement comes from a stroke of luck or maybe even fate.  While none of those factors have proven to generate any kind of miracle formula, research has found evidence that over any other measurable factor, possessing the quality of grit is the highest predictor of an individual achieving greatness.


Grit is “sticktoitiveness;” a diligent spirit; the nagging conviction that keeps you pressing on when it’d be easier to give up. Grit is what makes you get back on the horse after you’ve been kicked off.  Grit is the realization that achieving one’s greatest potential comes from running a marathon, not a sprint.

In a society fueled by instant gratification, possessing grit is not as simple a task as one may initially believe.  According to the latest research, one of the biggest indicators of grit is an ability to delay gratification while working on a task.  Simple in theory, but very difficult in practice — especially in today’s technological world.  One of the reasons why social media sites like Twitter and Facebook have become so addictive is that they offer users quick, accessible bursts of positive reinforcement (i.e., a “like” on a post, a photo comment, or a “re-tweet” of something on their Twitter feed, etc.).

The second most important characteristic of grit is the ability to remain constant even though significant challenges arise along the way.  This characteristic prods a little deeper into our beliefs about our own worth and self-efficacy, as well as our explanations for why challenges arise in the first place.  Those with grit do not look at their difficulties or failures as a reason to quit; rather, they utilize them as opportunities to grow stronger and become better equipped for the next challenge.

How do I use this in my life?

If one wants to become excellent at anything, be it basketball, algebra, public speaking, healthy eating, money management, organization, or even their marriage, they must commit to avoiding distractions and persevering when challenges arise.  Sure, talent, intelligence, and being at the right place at the right time may all play some role in achieving success, but it is really the quality of being gritty that will prove to be most  critical on your quest.  There really is no way around it: working hard is necessary if you want to get what you want.  The good news is that being gritty can be learned, and there are a few things we can do to teach this characteristic to ourselves:

  • Manage your distractions.  We all have things in our life that pull us away from what really matters. Whether it’s social media, television, our bad habits, or an unhealthy relationship, they all offer us early rewards without lasting value.  Discover what most commonly distracts you, determine what small reward it’s offering you, and in your moments of temptation, remind yourself of the greater reward that you are trying to achieve in realizing your ultimate goal.
  • Eradicate your “fixed mindset.”  The results are in: success does not just land itself on the laps of those who are privileged, blessed, or lucky.  Talent is earned; if you desire it, you must work for it.
  • Confront your fears of failure.  Everyone fails and encounters some level of challenge.  If something is valuable enough to you, decide that you are willing to experience some amount of failure in order to achieve it.  Without that, you will not be vulnerable enough to just begin.
  • Generate your own early rewards.  When there’s a task that feels really big, it’s easy to get discouraged.  If you break it down into smaller pieces and reward yourself along the way, you will be more aware of your progress and more likely to stay motivated to the task at hand.


Duckworth, A.L., & Seligman, M.E.P. (2005). Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents. Psychological Science, 16, 939–944.

20 thoughts on “What is Grit?”

  1. I was shocked to read that grit is the highest predictor of someone achieving success- not because I don’t believe it, but rather because I think intelligence is often touted as the most important thing career-wise, education-wise, etc. Also, excellent point about social media (Facebook and Twitter) offering instant gratification and their resulting popularity. Delaying gratification is tough so the tips are much appreciated! 🙂

    • I was shocked by this as well! In regard to the fixed mindset, I read the article on neuroplasticity (which seems to be in the news a lot as of late) and it seems that if our brains are malleable and not “fixed,” then our mindsets shouldn’t be “fixed” either!

  2. this was a good text book definition of the word grit. it has been used by me in the past to define toughness in sports, but it can be applied to almost all aspects of our lives. very informative!

  3. This information is powerful. My community places lot of emphasis on intelligence. Now I know as long as I have Grit I can make it.

  4. I gave my Grandaughter the Nick name Grit. I couldn’t really explain to her why. I just sent her this link. It describes her perfectly, thank you

  5. I m a Life Skills trainer. A Igcse certified International Math & Physics Teacher in Japan! I am really satisfied with the explanation provided. Thanks for the input!

  6. I agree with logical reason behind the support of grit is main reason behind the great success..
    It can be only realised by the successful person…while other may support the other side..ie talent , intelligent…offcourse these matters but as a catalyst …

  7. I totally agree, constant effort and perseverance is the main factor of success, specially in career.

    I like the point, Generate early reward…… breaking down of large task into small one is easy to handle and accomplish.

    • I totally agree with Anthony. being determined and tough on yourself heps to reach the ultimate goal. Grit is a go getter a person that fights to the bitter end.

  8. Just as I thought school wasn’t for me I came across this definition of grit. now I know giving up is not an option I will never give up or let anything distract me from what is important.

    • I am happy to know that you came across the definition of grit and you made the decision of not giving up on what is important. I wish you all the best.

  9. I think the definition of grit is nicely defined in a positive way. It will help me to stay focused on my goal. I will never give up on the important tasks and goals. I also hope that this definition of grit will encourage others to move forward with positive attitudes too.

  10. Being what the young people would call a Old Head this going back to school thing really threw me for a loop.My peers as I call them encouraged and helped me to refocus and old me I can do it. Now this Grit thing makes me want to accomplish my goal, which is to get my AA degree. Thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in my self. Think I’ll stick and stay.

  11. grit is using you time willy and pushing yourself to get where YOU WANT TO BE. its involves sacrificing and put important things first.

  12. As a teacher for 37 years, over the years I witnessed students who achieved success. The Valedictorians were always students who had Grit. I observed many students who had the potential but not the grit to succeed.

  13. I just completed a week of intensive training as a Consultant in hospice. The leader told me today, when we were wrapping up and I had asked her opinion regarding a difficult situation that she feels like I have a lot of grit. I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant so I was happy to find this. What a compliment!

  14. I am so glad that i came across this motivation word (grit), the information is powerful, it help me to keep fighting for my success no matter how difficult it is, giving up is never the answer to a difficult moment, we must learn how to keep pushing to achieve our goal because effort and perseverance is the key to success.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.