I read an interesting book recently, titled “Grit: Why passion and resilience are the secrets to success“.

The author, psychologist Angela Duckworth, posits that regardless of the natural ability we already have, the development and application of “grit” is one of the key ingredients that more than likely will propel us towards success and achievement in our chosen field. Yes, natural talent can help – but becoming good or great at something requires particular qualities which all of us can hone and develop.

Duckworth shares her insights through a combination of research findings, personal anecdotes, theories, interviews with “grit paragons” and analysis. Her book forced me to reflect on my own life and grittiness; the messages and encouragement I had received during my formative years; the occasions where I had and continue to persist and show grit; the lost opportunities when – for a multitude of reasons – I didn’t continue to work at something. Some of which may have been down to my grit (or lack, thereof).

More importantly, perhaps, I think about my nieces and nephews. I wonder about the extent to which they and future generations are being encouraged to be ‘gritty’ as they grow up in a rapidly uncertain and changing 21st century world. The more parents, teachers, aunties, uncles, grandparents and mentors who learn and apply the science behind grit, perhaps the better we will prepare these new generations for the earth they inherit.

Duckworth argues each of us can develop and raise our levels of grit. Four key determinants of grit are:

  1. Interest – as Duckworth states: “people are enormously more satisfied with their jobs when they do something that fits their personal interests” (p.97). Therefore, pursue and explore the things you’re interested in and don’t give up.
  2. Practice – specifically, the need for deliberate practice which incorporates stretch goals, full concentration and effort, regular feedback on performance, repetition and reflection. Therefore, plan regular practice and stick to the plan. Hold yourself accountable to the goals you set yourself (or ask someone to hold you accountable) and stick it out – even on the days when you’re not in the mood.
  3. Purpose – knowing that what we do matters in some way to other people. Therefore, focus on the WHY; be clear about how your work and persistence today will pay off and help others at some point in the near or distant future
  4. Hope – cultivating a growth mindset; believing that you can overcome your failures and learn from them. Therefore, reflect and learn from mistakes which will invariably happen. Be gracious and grateful for your failures; use them to propel you towards doing better next time.

I find it hard to disagree with much of Duckworth’s research and philosophies on grit and, whilst the evidence is not 100% conclusive, those with strong grit levels seem more likely to be successful. There also seems to be a correlation between grit levels, wellbeing and life satisfaction. Duckworth is also clear to point out that life is not all about grit, rather grit is one facet of our character which can influence our lives and those around us.

If you’re looking for some personal inspiration/motivation, or you’d like to learn a few ideas and strategies for improving how you can support younger people in your life, or you’re simply interested in understanding more about how humans can be driven to do and achieve things – then this is a good book to add to your reading list.

2 thoughts on “The seeds of Grit

  1. Thank you for sharing. It was interesting to hear you mention your thoughts about your nieces and nephews and preparing them for the 21st century through how we demontrate our own ‘grit’. Also point 4. Hope – growth mindset was also interesting, given that my Son’s class is holding a class assembly tomorrow on just that subject. I am sure there will be a thing or two they will teach us about developing our own growth mindset. I will be sure to share any snippets i glean. It is good to know its being taught in schools too, as sadly in a world focussed on knocking people down and comparing ourselves to un realistic images a bit of growth mindset might be just what is needed.

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