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.