The word Grit may someday replace the words persistence and perserverance.  Grit has a nice sound to it. It is short and sharp, and has a no-nonsense quality about it. It reminds one of something solid and something down to earth, like a farmer or a coal miner. Of course, we all know the movie True Grit. Most associate the Grit part with John Wayne or Jeff Bridges and that makes some sense, but the main catalyst of all action is 14 year old, Mattie Ross. She is willing to go through danger, humilation, dismissal, expense, discomfort, and threat to find justice for the killing of her father. Neither John Wayne, nor Jeff Bridges would have moved a bit without the bull-dog persistence of Mattie. She was the holder of Grit while John Wayne/Jeff Bridges simply looked gritty.

Grit is different than willpower. Willpower, as research is showing, is like a muscle that can do intense work but only for a short time. Willpower simply does not have the capacity for anything beyond, short, intense sessions. Grit/perserverance is in for the long game. It is our ability to endure and bounce back and to stay on the trail, again and again.  Grit easily out distances honorable willpower.

 “We define grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.” “… individuals high in grit deliberately set for themselves extremely long-term objectives and do not swerve from them—even in the absence of positive feedback.” – A. Duckworth – Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals. –

Angela Duckworth, assistant professor in the Positive Psychology group at the the University of Pennsylvania, has focused repeated studies on Grit and is the leader of the study of this character trait.  She reports that Grit has two aspects: first, there is the widely recognized endurance we just mentioned that extends across years and many obstacles. A second factor is less noticed and that is the fact that people with Grit lock onto a single interest and hang onto it for dear life. For some reason, a field, a project, or a problem has fascinated that person and the fascination doesn’t wane over many years. The fascination even deepens as the person learns more, experiments, struggles, and succeeds.  While others of us lose interest in something and move on, the Grit person stays, and stays, and stays.

– Fascination attracts and that attraction leads to a commitment similar to marriage vows (in sickness or in health; richer or poorer; until death do us part).
– Work it for years
– Work it when things are tough
– Work it when things are uncertain
– Work it even when others don’t understand
– Don’t rush, there is no where else that is better/there is nothing as fascinating as thee

What are your fascinations? If you have been following one for awhile, what about deepening your “relationship” by going deeper and broader?  Finding your fascination leads to endurance and that leads to Grit. What are willing to marry and let go only “until death do us part?”


Take a Self-Test developed by Angela Duckworth to get a look at your Grit (the test is free but registration is required; look down the page for the test):  The Grit Scale

Video- Angela Duckworth basic intro to Grit: True Grit  (18 minutes)

One thought on “Move Over Willpower, Grit is Here for the Long Haul

  1. I now have a word to name the quality that I knew some people had. Basically not giving iup no matter what is grit. I believe grit is moving me along a path to my goal of being a well fed artist.

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