7 simple ways you can develop grit

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Do you want to do something meaningful and make a significant difference with your life? If the answer is no then you can stop reading now.


If yes then whatever you want to do, you are going to need grit. You don’t need me to tell you that life can be incredibly tough and challenging at times. (For more on that see here).

The difference between those who find a way to not just survive, but actually go on to thrive and flourish has to do with grit. We have previously looked at what grit is and the need to have more grit.

We’ve also attempted to explain the difference grit can make. That’s all well and good. But how do you actually develop girt?

Here are 7 simple ways that the research in psychology says leads to grit. They are simple, but they are not simplistic :

1. Ask yourself, ‘What endlessly fascinates me?’
If you could think of one thing you could keep on doing and never get bored with what would that be? If you are struggling to come up with anything, maybe go back to your teenage years and think about what was a hobby or interest that fascinated you. We talked about this with the concept of flow and asked the question,“Do you ever get involved in something so deeply that nothing else seems to matter and you lose track of time?” When you are in flow there are 7 specific conditions you experience (see here). Passion begins with intrinsically enjoying what you do.

For me when I look back I have always been endlessly fascinated by people, understanding them and getting to know what makes them tick. That has progressed into my chosen field of psychiatry, which is all about understanding people in as full a way as a possible -body, mind and spirit. It’s also grown into the podcasting opportunities that I have had in interviewing such a variety of people. I can also see a connection with my faith as part of a never-ending life journey in getting to know God better through Biblical scripture and life experiences. I’ve summarised it for myself by saying I am endlessly fascinated by the 3Rs – reading, reflecting and relating. That’s me, but what about you? You can’t develop grit if you don’t have something that endlessly fascinates you. So what endlessly fascinates you?

2. Can you view frustrations as a necessary part of the process?
Nobody likes frustrations. We all get upset when setbacks and unexpected problems arise. But one form of perseverance is the daily discipline of seeking to do things better than we did the day before.  And to do that means making lots of mistakes. The person with grit is able to pick themselves up again with no self-reproach and  will simply just try again. ( 9 Ways To Look At Your Failures With The Eyes Of Faith).

“When you look at people practicing, you find they make tons and tons of mistakes,” says psychologist Angela Duckworth. “It’s by making those mistakes that you get better. Making mistakes and failing are normal—in fact, they’re necessary.” By reframing how you view mistakes, Duckworth says you can increase your grittiness. “Negative feelings are typical of learning, and you shouldn’t feel like you’re stupid when you’re frustrated doing something,” she says. “You might say to yourself, ‘I can’t do this,’ but you should say, ‘That’s great.’ That means you really have the potential to learn something there.” Its the difference between  a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. (See Never Or Not Yet?)

3. Can you find a greater purpose in what you are doing?
By purpose we mean the intention to contribute to the well being of others. Are you able to find a big enough why to what you are doing? The bigger and more meaningful that purpose then the more reasons you can then find for persevering on in spite of setbacks. (See Why The Best Way To Start This Year Is With The Question Why)

4. Do you have hope that you can change and grow?
We’ve talked about how important hope is to even life itself. When attempting a task and failing it is critical to adopt a growth mindset that sees the setback as a stepping stone to future achievement.

With those four in place here are practical suggestions from Thaler and Koval as to what develops grit:

5. Become an over-preparer.
One of the major findings from all the research on grit is that talent is over-rated. The two equations for developing ultimate success in any area of life are:

Talent x Effort = Skill
Skill x Effort = achievement.

In effect what the psychological research shows is that talent is only the first step. If you are hungry enough and willing to go the extra mile then the likelihood of you achieving is greater than someone who is naturally talented. Of course I am not saying something extreme such as if you are not good at football and you try very hard then you can eventually become a premiership football player! It is the combination of loving and being fascinated by something with some raw talent that is then multiplied by effort many times over.

6. Step off the edge.
That is not an excuse to do something that puts your life in danger. Rather its the realisation that conditions will never be perfect before I step out. It is the willingness to have the courage to do something maybe for the first time. (Also see 5 Simple Steps To Finding Courage To Make A Tough Call)

7 Go the extra 30 minutes.
Here is how Thaler and Koval put it. “You’d be surprised at the edge you can develop by applying yourself for an extra half hour on something – a goal, a skill, a job. Pick the time of day when you are most productive (early morning, after a jog, or in the quiet of a Sunday evening) and instead of watching a sitcom, devote yourself to whatever ‘it’ might be. A half hour each day adds up to 180 hours of extra practice a year!”

What do you need to develop more grit in your life?

6 thoughts on “7 simple ways you can develop grit”

  1. Sound advice and tips. I especially like the one about stepping out and taking some kind of risk – even if its a very measured risk. And not being afraid to fail! Failing is good because it means we are trying new things!

  2. Dear Sunil, the sentence that jumped out for me today was “it is critical to adopt a growth mindset”. I was recently devasated that I had not been selected for promotion, and I was attaching all my present and future happiness to this artificial conceptual thing (promotion), and I wrongly felt and believed that my future growth depended on this, I felt that there was no other way. Even though I knew this wasn’t true on a cognitive level, I just couldn’t shake it off. Then a friend told me about a book ‘Seven Masters, 1 path’ by John Selby. What an absolutely amazing and transformative book. I had only read up to page 40 and began to practice the breathing techniques, and I had the most profound epiphany of my life: I felt completely in the moment, I had lost all my attachments, judgements, and more importantly my attachment to the promotion, the mental release I felt was unlike anything I had felt before, the connectedness to the universe and everything felt amazing, I stood for 1 hour 30 mins in a state of constant joy and bliss, a little smile on my face, I didn’t even care about time, even though my mind wanted to check the time, I smiled at my own mind, its attachment to time. I realised that the suffering I had been through recently, not just the silly promotion thing, but other problems, only made my joy more pleasurable. I also realised that I had been defining myself on WHAT I do (my job/rank) rather than WHO I AM, which is profoundly more important. I also felt a new connection to the divine, to God, and I asked for forgiveness for all my rebellion against him, and I thanked him for the crooked and painful path of my life which lead up to this profound moment. The teachings of ancient Indian prophets, and the successive divine prophets have all been merged together in this book into one unified message. I can’t recommend this book strongly enough.

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    This information is for educational purposes only, and is in no way intended to be personal medical advice. Please ask your physician about any health guidelines seen in this blog, as everyone is different in his or her medical needs.