GRIT: Six Quotes — and Habits — To Keep You Gritty When the Going Gets Tough

By: Martin Grunburg

The psychological definition of grit suggests that it is a non-cognitive trait. I’d like to challenge that idea slightly. Like any habit, grit can be at first cognitively fostered and then consciously refortified until it becomes embedded in your subconscious.

That’s an important consideration because it tells us that the essential characteristic for “success,” GRIT, isn’t for just a select, chosen few but for anyone who has the desire to consciously craft those positive habits that foster a gritty character.

Habit #1: Adaptability

“The bend in the road is not the end in the road unless you fail to make the turn.”

Adapt. Adapt. Adapt. The person with the most options in any situation has the best opportunity for success. Recall Darwin’s observation that it is neither the strongest nor the smartest of the species that survives, but the most adaptable to change.

Habit #2: Mental Toughness

“Where there is a will, there is a way!”

Mental toughness is the state of mind that conveys to the world that you have a vision for an outcome, objective and goal, and you are hell-bent on making your vision a reality. Here’s the catch, though: You have to achieve your vision while honoring habit #1 (above).

Steve Jobs was renowned for something the author of his autobiography labeled the “reality distortion field.” While most were quick to concede to “what is,” Jobs would push the boundaries and continue to hold firm to his view of what could be.

When his senior developer told Jobs that it was “impossible” to make the Macintosh boot up faster, Jobs insisted on it. He challenged the engineer by asking, “If you could save someone’s life by shaving 10 seconds off the boot time, could you do it?” The challenge inspired the engineer, who ultimately cut the boot time by 28 seconds.

Jobs imposed this same indomitable will — the reality distortion field — later when it came to designing the iPhone. He insisted that the phone contain only a single button, while engineers said this was impossible. Today that simplified design is the standard for smartphones throughout the world, and Apple just released the iPhone 7 with not a single button!

Habit #3: Retain a Short Memory

“The most important shot in golf is the next one.” ~Ben Hogan

Reflecting too long upon any mistake can be a bad thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s golf, football or your last presentation to the office. The gritty individual keeps her eyes on the prize. She marches forward having learned from her mistake, but knowing that any past event or performance is just a moment in time.

How quickly can you move on after a mistake and refocus your energy and attention to the present?

Habit #4: Positive Thinking

“Positive thinking won’t help you do everything but it will help you do everything better.” ~Zig Ziglar

Since our expectations tend to influence our efforts — and perhaps our opportunities and even outcomes — what’s the benefit of thinking negatively?

Gritty individuals consistently reframe setbacks with a positive mindset to view challenges as opportunities.

People who are gritty appreciate that the highest goal is progress and not perfection, since everything is in a state of constant change.

Habit 5: Embrace the Struggle

“Hard days are the best because that is where champions are made!” ~Gabby Douglas

If everything is in a constant state of change, and the best we can really do is hope to improve a little every day, then it’s useful not to fight the challenges that are beyond our control.

How do you react to hard days? What about tough weeks, months or even years?

The gritty individual finds a way to embrace the pain, pressure and struggle. He recognizes that fighting events (beyond his control) is a waste of valuable energy.

What’s interesting is that the GREATS find a way to view pressure as a positive force that can help them solve their problems and fuel their ambitions, goals and desires. I wrote extensively about that topic here, in The Pressure Paradox.

Habit 6: Courage

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” ~Anais Nin

The courage to pursue a goal in the first place — to even have a goal and then act upon it — is the one trait that enables all the others. As Aristotle put it, courage is the “greatest quality of the mind next to honor,” and further commented that courage is the “mother” of all virtues. To put it simply, nobody becomes gritty without first demonstrating even a small act of courage.

And, yes! Courage, like all the aforementioned traits, is a habit that can be cultivated!

Get after it!


A little background on grit.

GRIT is defined in psychological terms as a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve that objective.

The concept of GRIT was largely popularized by Angela Lee Duckworth and her book, GRIT, which underscores the significance of the concept and its relationship to your success.

Angela also has a terrific TED talk on the subject.

In this prior article, I share the GRIT Pyramid (illustration) and the 10 positive habits that help to constitute GRIT.

Stay gritty my friends! ; )

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