Grit: A Complete Guide on Being Mentally Tough

What is Grit?

Let's define grit. Grit is the perseverance and passion to achieve long–term goals. Sometimes you will hear grit referred to as mental toughness. Angela Duckworth, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that grit is a strong predictor of success and ability to reach one's goals.

Duckworth's research on grit has shown that…

  • West Point cadets who scored highest on the Grit Test were 60% more likely to succeed than their peers.
  • Ivy League undergraduate students who had more grit also had higher GPAs than their peers — even though they had lower SAT scores and weren’t as “smart.”
  • When comparing two people who are the same age but have different levels of education, grit (and not intelligence) more accurately predicts which one will be better educated.
  • Competitors in the National Spelling Bee outperform their peers not because of IQ, but because of their grit and commitment to more consistent practice.

(If you'd like more, I wrote about Duckworth's research here.)

A Video Explanation of Grit

This short TED talk by psychology professor Angela Duckworth explains the concept of grit and how it helps foster mental toughness in our everyday lives.

 

How to Be Mentally Strong

Step 1: Define what grit or mental toughness means for you.

For you, it might be…

  • going one month without missing a workout
  • delivering your work ahead of schedule for two days in a row
  • calling one friend to catch up every Saturday this month

Whatever it is, be clear about what you’re going after.

Step 2: Build grit with small physical wins.

So often we think that grit is about how we respond to extreme situations, but what about everyday circumstances?

Mental toughness is like a muscle. It needs to be worked to grow and develop.

Choose to do the tenth rep when it would be easier to just do nine. Choose to create when it would be easier to consume. Choose to ask the extra question when it would be easier to accept. Prove to yourself — in a thousand tiny ways — that you have enough guts to get in the ring and do battle with life.

Read more: The Proven, Reasonable and Totally Unsexy Secret to Success

Step 3: Build strong habits and stop depending on motivation.

Grit isn’t about getting an incredible dose of inspiration or courage. It’s about building the daily habits that allow you to stick to a schedule and overcome challenges and distractions over and over and over again.

Mentally tough people don’t have to be more courageous, more talented, or more intelligent — just more consistent.

Grit comes down to your habits. It’s about doing the things you know you’re supposed to do on a more consistent basis. It’s about your dedication to daily practice and your ability to stick to a schedule.

Read more: How to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones

Examples of Grit

  • Mentally tough athletes are more consistent than others. They don’t miss workouts. They don’t miss assignments. They always have their teammates back.
  • Mentally tough leaders are more consistent than their peers. They have a clear goal that they work towards each day. They don’t let short–term profits, negative feedback, or hectic schedules prevent them from continuing the march towards their vision. They make a habit of building up the people around them — not just once, but over and over and over again.
  • Mentally tough artists, writers, and employees deliver on a more consistent basis than most. They work on a schedule, not just when they feel motivated. They approach their work like a pro, not an amateur. They do the most important thing first and don’t shirk responsibilities.

3 Articles on How I Develop Grit

Best Books on Grit and Mental Toughness

Want more great grit books? Browse my full list of the best self-help books.

All Grit Articles

This is a complete list of articles I have written on grit and mental toughness. Enjoy!

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