Grit – What it is, why you need it and how to get it.

You’ve probably heard about grit before. But what is it really, why do you need it and how do you get it? There are books written on this topic, namely by the Harvard graduate and psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania Angela Duckworth. While all of the research is really interesting how does it apply in your daily life? This is what I am going to talk about today.

Definition of Grit in Psychology.

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary grit in psychology is defined as : “firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger”. Wikipedia describes is this way: “Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individuals passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, couples with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie within a gritty individuals path to accomplishment, and serves as a driving force in achievement realization.”

Dot it! Don’t quit!











My Personal Experience.

Reading about this reminded me a lot of some deeply personal experiences that I just recently had, where I needed grit more than ever.

Imagine you are 39 years old, not old, not young and always in good health, when you find yourself from one day to another in the hospital. That happened to me in February of 2016. The diagnosis was Leukemia. It started out with just a couple bruises that seemed to come out of nowhere and multiplied over night. I went to the doctor to have them checked out. Within two days I was in the hospital for five consecutive and long weeks.

I never thought about death much before, and not about grit either. But the seriousness of my illness became apparent to me in the first ten minutes of my hospital stay. The nurse that checked me in asked me if I had a living will or a will at all. I wondered how this could have happened. The doctor replied to my question that there is really no early detection of it possible and no common cause. It just happens. It really does not matter after all why and how I got it, but that I did.

I think grit is what got me through this far. And I realized that if I can get through this, other things that formerly scared me and seemed difficult or almost impossible now did not seem so difficult or impossible any longer.

I don’t expect everyone to have an outlook of life like I do. I hope that you don’t have to go through what I went through to realize that you most likely have a lot more grit than you think you do. Oftentimes it’s with things like that that you realize what you really can do. But how does this apply to you in everyday life?

Grit for Creatives.

Grit really does not seem to correlate with multi-discipline creations or does it? While grit also is implied to have to stick to one goal, I think multi-disciplinary creatives have more grit than a lot of others. They have to in order to master several techniques and creative disciplines and being successful in them. But there are setbacks and frustrations with anything. Such is the same or more when you are not working on only one goal. It’s how we deal with setbacks and frustrations that determines how we get through these. And that is what grit is all about. It helps us see the bigger picture instead of the short term goal. It helps us work towards a vision.

How to get Grit.

Now, how does one get grit, when we don’t seem to have it? Per Angela Duckworth grit is learn-able. And I do agree. You don’t have to be facing a deadly illness to explore that you have grit. To get grit you don’t have to jump out of a plane and go skydiving. That’s not what grit is about anyway.

You can get it by doing what you are scared of, sectioning it into tiny portions and then doing it. And you will have to expect setbacks, frustrations and mistakes. But that is how we learn. Not only if everything goes well, but also when it doesn’t. It’s your mindset that makes the difference and not the experience. When you make a mistake try to shift your focus from thoughts like: “I am stupid, I knew I couldn’t do it.” to “Wow, that was a mistake, but I learned a lot.”

A second thing in this is another shift in perspective: Go from the belief that people are who they are and do not change to the belief that we all are able to change and grow.

Do you have passion for what you are doing? This is also one of the secrets to getting grit. Passion for what you are doing. And a sense of purpose. Have you ever thought about why you are doing what you are doing and tried to find the purpose? Now is a good time, if you haven’t ever done this before. And then there is practice. You will need to have to set time aside to practice whatever it is that you are doing, whether it’s a creative goal or not. And focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t. This all will lead to a shift in perspective that will help you to get grit and to maintain it. And lastly there is hope. Learn that it is alright to fail as long as you don’t give up or quit.

The “Grit-Box”.

Now how do I get and keep grit? I have a “Grit-Box”. A collection of cards with inspirational sayings and solutions to my most common problems. It’s a how to box of cards that I can go to when my emotions take over. I use it when I am either sad, or frustrated or feel negative in any other way. These cards are written and decorates when I am feeling good and am motivated. I do that so my positive attitude shines through when I’m not feeling well.


So to recap:

  • Do what you are scared of in tiny steps.
  • Expect mistakes and welcome them as learning experience.
  • Find the purpose in what you are doing.
  • Practice.
  • Believe that people can change and grow.
  • Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t.
  • Have hope and learn that it is alright to fail as long as you don’t give up or quit.

Now that you have learned about grit, go ahead and share your favorite inspirational saying in the comments. And go make yourself a “Grit-Box”. I am rooting for you!

2 thoughts on “Grit – What it is, why you need it and how to get it.

  1. Maia Lagerstedt says:

    I love this post. “Grit” isn’t a word you hear very often, but I think it’s a great word. Your post is very moving and inspiring–and I am so making a Grit Box. What a wonderful idea!

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