When someone endures many challenges yet is successful in achieving a desired goal in the long run, it’s said that he’s got grit. People who possess this quality have a solid work ethic and find a way to stay motivated until they succeed, in addition to any amounts of talent or intelligence which they may have.
Some research has shown that gritty people are more likely to graduate from high school, complete specialized military training, keep their jobs and stay married, because they’re inclined to keep showing up, rather than quitting. Other research has shown that gritty elite athletes are self-motivated and work toward their goals consistently—even when they experience setbacks— and they’re more likely to be motivated than discouraged by their failures.
People with grit live life as though it’s a marathon, not a sprint, with their eyes on a distant prize and the ability to learn from their mistakes. And although some people are born with grit, it may be learned, according to experts. By nurturing your grittiness, you may have more success when getting into shape, working toward a promotion, learning how to play the guitar or reaching another goal that you’re passionate about.
“This ability to persevere seems to be both a personality trait that’s very closely related to conscientiousness and, at the same time, is also a set of strategies that seems to be able to be taught,” says Jon Jachimowicz, PhD, assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.
These habits may help you cultivate grit:
Find your passion
Grit isn’t defined by persistence alone; you must also be passionate about the goal that you’re trying to achieve in order to be successful, according to research. “If you persevere but you don’t really have a reason, an underlying ‘why’, it starts getting really challenging,” says study author Jachimowicz. “There’s this really wonderful quote by Nietzsche: ‘He who has a why can endure almost any how,’ and passion fits into that really nicely . . . I absolutely think that passion is necessary for perseverance to be successful, and that both components are necessary.”
Before setting your sights on a goal, check in with yourself to make sure that you’re passionate enough to follow through.
Gritty people motivate themselves to work toward a desired goal. They may go farther each time that they run. They may forbid themselves from quitting when they feel tired. They may use inspirational mantras to endure difficult moments. “It’s not like they’re superhuman beings who are genetically different from anyone else; what they have is the ability to persist a little bit longer,” says Caroline Adams Miller, author of Getting Grit: The Evidence-Based Approach to Cultivating Passion, Perseverance and Purpose. “You can’t even imagine the creative ways that people come up with to motivate and inspire themselves to keep going when they want to quit. And that separates people who are good from people who are really elite and gritty.”
Follow through on your goals, and strive to surpass them. If you plan to walk for half an hour, don’t quit after 25 minutes—and consider going for an additional several minutes. “That’s exactly the kind of thing gritty people do,” Miller says. “They up the ante on themselves to see what they’re capable of.”
Before you devote yourself to a goal, make sure that it’s worth your time and attention. “In American culture, we often think about persevering as good in and of itself, to kind of show off how hard we’re working, how many hours we’re putting in, how much we stick with something, even when it’s challenging,” Jachimowicz says. “But [we should] really challenge and ask ourselves, ‘Is this really necessary? Why am I doing this? What is the benefit of this all, for doing this? And to what extent does this align to what it is that I care about with my long-term goals?’”
Self-reflection should help you determine whether or not a goal is worth striving for, especially when it isn’t in your best interests—for example, if you hope to run a marathon, but you’ve got foot problems that make it difficult for you to even run a 5K. “The really key component of persevering is not only sticking with it but also knowing when to let go,” Jachimowicz says.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.