Every four years we all get the chance to witness the greatest gathering of a single global sport, the World Cup. Similar to the Olympics, the World Cup unearths normally hibernating patriotism, sportsmanship, and celebration from its fans. But for the athletes, World Cup is a chance to live out lifelong aspirations on a world stage. What is it that sets apart those who break out of the norm and become the extraordinary? Surprisingly, it’s not physical ability…it’s all mental.

William James, K.E Ericson, and Aristotle, all believed tenacity was one of the most valued virtues. In recent years Dr. Angela Duckworth, a positive psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania brought us a similar notion she calls “grit”.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines grit as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.” In context of Duckworth’s work this definition is tweaked to be “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” Duckworth’s work found that when holding constant characteristics usually associated with success such as intelligence/IQ, talent, and experience there was still a previously unidentifiable character trait that allowed some to capture their goals and others to stagger and fall off the path…a person’s sense of grit.

Duckworth’s research on grit has shown:

  • West Point cadets who scored highest on the Grit Test were 60% more likely to succeed than their peers.
  • Ivy League undergraduate students who had more grit also had higher GPAs than their peers — even though they had lower SAT scores and weren’t as “smart.”
  • When comparing two people who are the same age but have different levels of education, grit (and not intelligence) more accurately predicts which one will be better educated.
  • Competitors in the National Spelling Bee outperform their peers not because of IQ, but because of their grit and commitment to more consistent practice.

The characteristics that make up grit are not unfamiliar – perseverance, endurance, resilience, excellence and conscientiousness. The sum of these, simply stated, speak to our ability to set the bar high and not give up either in our mind or our actions.

This concept struck a cord in me of such truth magnitude that I was unwilling to acknowledge it at first. I have been blessed thus far in my life with personal and career success. However my own greatest challenge is overcoming fear to push myself out of comfortable. Without great adversity acting as a catalyst for growth, it is easy to fall into a pattern of relishing in the low hanging fruit of your natural born talents. This strategy can fill your life and your resume with accomplishments but at the expense of never knowing the view from the tree’s top branches. For me this manifested in career choices that were “safe” but lacked an outlet for my true passion and service to others. It meant limiting myself to half marathons rather than full in order to shy away from the gruel of training. It meant shying away from writing when rejection letters arrived instead of using the critique to enhance and grow my writing.

What are the areas of your life where you might be reveling in the comfortable rather than showing your grit? Are there places where perseverance could be strengthened? Is there a goal in life you have committed to every New Year but something made you give up on it by June?

So what can you do to get you past the hump? To find your own personal grit? Let’s start with these 7 tips from Steve Bloom.

1. Find someone to help push you

Just that little bit of support encouraging you to keep going in the face of resistance can mean so much.

2. Take on a little more than you think you can

If you’re not challenging yourself to do bigger and better things on a regular basis, you’re only working within the confines of what you already can do. That’s a sure-fire way to stay exactly where you are and make little to no progress.

3. Imagine reaching your next level

Where you put that focus matters a lot. Imagine that next level for reaching your dreams and take steps to get there.

4. Look at how others reached where you want to go

Whatever your goals are, there are probably others who have had them and succeeded in reaching them.

5. Inspire yourself to action

Find something that inspires you to reach your goals. Inspiration can be a powerful motivational tool.

6. Don’t stop until exhaustion

Sometimes just sheer endurance can be the only key to reaching your goals.

7. Work on your weaknesses

Where there are weaknesses, there are limits. Without correction, your weaknesses will limit how far you can take yourself.

Although January is a traditional time for renewal, resolutions and resolves; there is no wrong time to start anew. Whether it is a healthier diet and exercise routine, a career change or promotion or simply a commitment to live a more aware life, we can all use a little extra grit to keep us pushing forward when our resolve begins to wear thin. Take time today to evaluate the intentions you set for yourself – a month ago, a week ago or years ago. Close your eyes and visualize achievement of those goals and feel all the pleasure that brings. Take those feelings with you and use them to help you find your own inner grit.

“Overtime grit is what separates fruitful lives form aimlessness.” – John Ortber


1 Cerretani, J. (2018) The Contagion of Happiness. Harvard Medicine; The science of emotion.
2 Parker, C. (2014) Stanford Research: The meaningful life is a road worth traveling. Stanford News.
3 Bargh, J. (2017) Before you know it; The unconscious reasons we do what we do. Simon and Schuster

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