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Got Grit? 7 Ways to Embrace a Life of Passion and Persistence

Some may call it gumption, moxie or guts. I call it grit and when you see it in others, it is truly inspiring. The website, A Fine Parent, defines grit as a distinct combination of passion, resilience, determination, and focus that allows a person to maintain the discipline and optimism to persevere in their goals even in the face of discomfort, rejection, and a lack of visible progress for years, or even decades. Wow.

Every year I attend a walk that supports research to end childhood cancer. The non-profit that hosts the event is run by my dear friend, Wendy. She created the non-profit after her 16-year-old son passed from leukemia. She and her family have raised money hoping that it might protect others from going through what they have gone through. Wendy struggles through her own grief and pain to fight for a cure. To fight for others. To fight for her son. Wendy has grit.


This article is sponsored by Neely Coaching & Training


What does grit look like?

University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Angela Duckworth PhD studied various groups like first year West Point cadets, competitors in the National Spelling Bee, and Green Berets to find out which characteristic they all shared to make it through high-pressure situations and succeed. She states that these individuals had grit – a combination of passion and perseverance. To have grit, you must have both.

It takes effort to turn a talent into a skill that brings success. Without grit, talent may be nothing more than unmet potential. Dr Duckworth says that being naturally smart and talented are great, but to truly do well and thrive, we also need the ability to persevere.

Grit demands that you take risks. People who have grit are willing to step out of their comfort zones. They are not afraid of failure as they know it can lead to learning something new or getting them closer to achieving a long-term goal. People with grit do not give up.

Let me introduce you to my friend, Alex. When I first met her, she was a single mom who had been hired in a support role in my department. She made it clear that she wanted more. Alex set a goal, achieved it, and then set a new goal. She was always learning, soaking in all she could from people and experiences. This single mom did not shy away from the hard stuff but thrived on the challenge. She did not always succeed but she pushed through. Alex earned her bachelor’s degree while working full-time, taking care of her family, and continuously stepping outside of her comfort zone to take on jobs she had never done before to build her career. She is now a multi-business owner, wife and mother of two. Alex has grit.

How do you get grit?

Grit is not something that is bestowed upon you. You must build habits that allow you to keep your focus and build resilience every day.

Embrace failure – I did not grow up in the ‘everyone gets a trophy’ era. When I was younger, I played in a girls’ softball league. My team, the Cobras, lost every game we played one season. Every game. Here is what is interesting, that is a time of my childhood that I vividly remember as being good. My teammates and I loved the game and we took it all in stride. My sister, who was also on the team, and I would loudly cheer “we are #4!” All of us knew we were putting out maximum effort. We continued to support each other. Our team got up to that plate and ran out on that field every game. We were building grit.

Surround yourself with people who persevere – Research shows that you become most like the five people with whom you spend the most time. Who is that for you and do you need to make some changes? People with grit don’t see problems: they see opportunities for learning. They meet every challenge with enthusiasm and innovative thinking. When I apply what I have learned from my gritty friends, I feel confident and capable.

Take time to reflect

Taking time to reflect allows us to bring awareness to things we have accomplished, identify learning, and determine next steps.

Be in a continuous learning mode

Curious about something? Do a little research. Challenge yourself to learn something new every week. Watch a Tedtalk video, listen to a podcast, or read a book. Have lunch with someone who you admire and trust and ask them questions. Put yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable.

Work with a coach – A coach can help you learn faster from your successes and failures. They will ask you the tough questions and help you to see situations from different perspectives. Continuous coaching conversations can provide built-in accountability.

Your mind is a suggestion machine – In a blog by James Clear, he suggests to consider every thought as a suggestion, not an order. Think you’re tired? Think you want to give up? Another thought could be that you will feel very good once you have accomplished this task. All of these are options and you have the power to choose which option you follow.

Consider who you are and who you want to be – Trust your gut. Choose joy. Show up.

We are introduced to grit early. From the book, The Little Engine That Could, we learn the mantra: “I think I can, I think I can. I know I can!” to adulthood when we tell each other to “stay strong”, we are developing grit. Grit helps us to remember that the struggle is real……….and so are the blessings.


Debby Neely is a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation who specializes in leadership coaching and facilitation. Her business, Neely Coaching & Training, supports both formal and informal leaders in realizing their potential and in getting results. Their mission is to help you be the best you can be.

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