How to develop grit

Angela Duckworth, when asked in an interview for showupshineandsucceed, said the following:

In a nutshell, she said while much is still being learned about grit, Angela suggests four things you can do to improve your levels of grit:

  • Be Meaningfully Interested – Make sure your long-term goal is set around something that is interesting and meaningful to you.  The magic of grit occurs only when you have both. For example, you might be interested in ice-cream but do you really find it meaningful and want to be gritty in your pursuit of it?Professor William Damon at Stanford University has found that when we find something personally interesting and it’s meaningful to the world beyond ourselves, we’re able to connect passion with action that provides a sense of purpose and energy that prevents burnout and promotes resiliency.


  • Cultivate growth mindsets – In recent research with Professor Carol Dweck from Stanford University, Angela has found grit is positively correlated with the belief that we can improve our talents and abilities.  Having a “growth mindset” is one of the cognitive antecedents that makes you more inclined to be gritty because it cultivates the belief that things can improve, that failure is not permanent and that there is a reason to persist.


  • Invest in deliberate practice Professor Anders Ericsson’s studies of world-class experts across different fields have found that one of the primary steps that set them apart is that they practice the development of their strengths in specific ways.  The deliberate practice they undertake meets the following requirements when it comes to improving their skills: setting specific goals for micro-improvements; chasing a level of challenge that exceeds their current levels of skills (they focus on doing things they can’t yet do); seeking immediate and informative feedback; and practicing, practicing and practicing until the point of mastery is reached and they can perform on autopilot.


  • Ask for support – Rely on other people around you to hold you accountable to your goals and ensure you don’t quit in the face of boredom, frustration or discouragement. A common feature in the stories of top performers is that there were times where they stumbled and there were times when they doubted themselves. It wasn’t all easy for them, and in many cases, they relied on someone else, not themselves.



Grit can be linked to resilience

Dennis Charney at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City, and Steven Southwick at the Yale School of Medicine have avidly studied people to find out why some are more resilient than others.

The pair identified 10 factors that allow the most resilient among us to keep going despite incredibly trying times. They are:

  • Facing fear
  • Having a moral compass
  • Drawing on faith
  • Using social support
  • Having good role models
  • Being physically fit
  • Making sure your brain is challenged
  • Having “cognitive and emotional flexibility”
  • Having “meaning, purpose, and growth” in life
  • “Realistic” optimism.

Let’s examine each of these behaviors:

Facing Fear: Fear is an evolutionary survival strategy that is wildly inappropriate in modern society. It still has the ability to paralyze, and unless confronted will prevent us from taking any action. All great people act despite their fear.

Having a moral compass: Knowing your values and using them to make decisions can bring simplicity and clarity to otherwise unsolvable problems. Since it is impossible to predict all the consequences of our actions, we decide based on the foreseeable consequences and with good intentions.

Drawing on faith: Sometimes we really don’t know what is going to happen and we have to rely on faith to act. You don’t know if the economy will crash tomorrow, if a new technology will render you obsolete, or if you will die in a car accident. You have to believe that the economy will keep working, that your job will still exist in a year and that you probably won’t die in a car crash today. You might be wrong.

Using social support: This one seems self-explanatory. There are so many reasons that people function better in groups than alone. Although obvious, many people overlook this and do not spend sufficient time on building and cultivating their support networks. Don’t leave this one to chance.

Having good role models: Good role models to learn from can save us a lot of time and pain when we can learn from their mistakes. This one is also very important. Bad role models can cause us a lot of pain when we mimic their mindsets and behaviors.

Being physically fit: There is a multitude of reasons to be physically fit. More energy, better mood, a better immune system, more clarity of thinking. The list goes on and on. If you aren’t fit, know that the rewards of being in a healthy physical condition far surpass the changes needed to get there.

Making sure your brain is challenged: Your brain learns and grows from a challenge. It is antifragile. You need to challenge your brain to keep it fit, analogously to your body. Keep yourself from boredom and atrophy by challenging your brain on a regular basis.

Having “cognitive and emotional flexibility”: Rigid patterns are fragile and easily break under stress, but being flexible can allow you to make it through whatever hardship you face.

Having “meaning, purpose, and growth” in life: I think if you don’t have these your are either dead already or well on your way there. “meaning, purpose and growth” sound like the core essence of life, without them you aren’t living, you’re merely existing.

“Realistic” optimism: Optimism is good. Optimism is great. When being positive gets in the way of getting good results, being optimistic is a mistake.

Use these strategies to build your grit and become more resilient. You can even become antifragile!

Here’s a link to the short questionnaire to measure your grit.

Bonus Content

Use this spreadsheet that I made to see your grit score.

To happiness, and beyond!


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