True Grit – Is It True for You?

I recently heard from a friend who is completing his clinical sessions on his way to becoming a licensed counselor. When asked about a key theme his clients are struggling with, he told me that many are seeking help because they have difficulty in coping with setbacks and what they perceive to be a failure. His term for what seems to be missing for those people is “grit.”

Interestingly, I had just viewed this TED talk from Angela Duckworth who left a demanding job as a management consultant to teach math to seventh graders in the New York City public schools. Her experience in the classroom led to her research to discover why some people work so much harder and longer than others. Her research findings also found that “grit” was the difference maker!

Grit is broadly defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” It involves maintaining goal focused effort for extended periods of time, often while facing adversity, but does not require a critical incident.

Gritty individuals do not seek to distinguish themselves from other people – it’s all about achieving personal goals. In contrast to ambition, grit is not associated with seeking fame or external recognition for achievements.

I think of someone like Rudy Ruettiger, who had a life-long dream to play for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team despite having difficulty in school because he was dyslexic, not to mention being undersized at merely 5’6″ and 165 pounds. His story is depicted in the movie, Rudy

Research suggests that talent has little to do with grit. Grit is not really a skill you can build, but more of a mindset. A growth mindset!

Angela Duckworth said that, by understanding a little bit about the science of hope, you can change your approach to build your grit. “If you have a growth mindset theory, that means that, deep down, you fundamentally think human beings are designed to change and grow.” This article, 5 Research-backed ways to increase grit, is a nice summary of what Duckworth outlines in her book.

People with grit don’t view failure as a permanent condition. Failure is part of the learning process.

As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 

I like to think of grit as “stamina for your future!”

While we may have times where life seems to be humming along, rest assured, there will be some pothole or detour around the corner. That IS life. Having the right mindset and attitude of embracing imperfection will serve you well.

We are all works in progress in our journey through life. It is a marathon, not a sprint. Here are a few reminders to make the journey more fulfilling:

  • Document your goals through written words, spoken words or images
  • Consider setbacks or failures as opportunities for learning
  • Look for what good can come out of each bad situation
  • Be forgiving – of yourself and others when those failures or bad situations arise
  • Keep your eyes on the prize and work hard

I’ll close with two final Thomas Edison quotes:

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at