Why GRIT is More Important Than Ever


You have a good hunch of what it is but perhaps you aren’t entirely sure …

First thoughts. When I hear Grit, I think of …

  • The word gritty. Like a little rough around the edges.
  • True Grit, the old John Wayne movie for which he won an Academy Award. Not a pleasant association these days, given new revelations of Wayne’s deeply entrenched white supremacist views.

Let us consider the much more enlightened work of psychologist Angela Duckworth, author of “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” instead. This is the question Duckworth examines: Why do some super-smart people never fully realize their potential while others with lesser IQs outperform them in the long run? One of the differentiators, Duckworth suggests, is our ability to harness Grit. Grit is the sweet spot where passion and perseverance come together to work through challenges.

That instinctively makes sense, doesn’t it?

And whoa, is our ability to harness Grit ever relevant in these supremely challenged times we’re in.

In a series of six studies, Duckworth tested the thesis that individuals who possess a drive to tirelessly work through challenges and adversity to achieve their goals are uniquely positioned to reach higher achievements than others who lack similar stamina. Duckworth developed a two-factor Grit scale with notable results. Here are just a few of her thought-provoking findings:

  • Higher levels of Grit were directly associated with a higher cumulative grade point average (GPA) in an Ivy League research sample when compared to those with lower Grit levels.
  • Grit predicted retention after their first summer in two classes of cadets at the United States Military Academy.
  • Participants in a National Spelling Bee with higher Grit scores typically work harder and longer than less gritty peers, ultimately resulting in better performance.

Duckworth’s research ruffled more than a few academic feathers. Her findings challenged the prevailing reliance on intelligence as a key indicator for future achievement.

Let’s relate the practice of Grit (Grit = passion + perseverance) to how you maneuver through these coronavirus times. You may have lost your job. You may have been asked to take a pay cut. You may experience a lot more stress at home because, well, suddenly everyone is at home with you, all the time!

A simplistic understanding of Grit might lead us to believe that well, it’s just about working harder. Doing more. Digging in. No. That isn’t it.

Related: Have Courageous Conversations NOW