8 Research-Backed Ways to Gain Grit

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There are some people who will finish a race, even if they can barely stand by the time they reach the finish line. They’re the same people who never give up in the middle of a book and see a challenging course to its completion. Essentially, they’ve got grit.

If you're someone who tends to get going when the going gets tough, we've got some good news: If you aren’t born with grit, you can develop it. Here are a few ways to become gritty.


Once you set these goals, write them down where you can see them often, says Zoe McKey, communication coach and author of Build Grit. McKey, for instance, keeps her goals on Post-it notes that she sticks to her wardrobe.

McKey also makes sure not to set too many goals at once. Instead, she breaks down her goals into daily and hourly tasks so she has a clear picture of what she needs to do to achieve them.


A "motivation trigger" is something that keeps you on track, even when you’d like to quit or procrastinate, McKey says. “If you feel highly motivated by others’ praise, make sure to tell people about your accomplishments so they can praise you,” McKey says. “If a productive day gives you deep self-satisfaction in the evening, remind yourself every time you feel like doing nothing how good it is to go to sleep with peace of mind—or how bad it is without.”


There’s always a way to make something fun, McKey says. “If you have to repeat the same thing day by day—for example, you're writing your thesis for your senior year—go to different cafes or libraries to make it more interesting,” she says. If your goal is a solitary action, listen to music or an audiobook while you work; or, if someone is working with you, add an element of friendly competition to help stay engaged.


The people we look to as examples of grittiness personified do not necessarily show tenacity and perseverance in everything they do, says John Welch IV, author of Mastering the Power of Grit. “The grit comes when they are working on tasks and responsibilities that are directly aligned with their purpose and goals,” Welch says. “Thus, one of the keys to grit is to begin with a clear and compelling vision of your future—something that excites you, a dream that gets you up early—with goals that keep you up late, and then draw clear connections between what you are doing now and those dreams and goals at the end of the road.”

Let's say your dream is to be governor. To accomplish this, you spend your afternoons knocking on doors. It's hard not to feel like quitting after you've had yet another door slammed in your face. But, instead of giving up and going home, you need to return to your purpose. “Spend a few minutes re-imagining what it would be like to be the governor of your state,” Welch says. “Imagine all the good work you could do, or the thrill of holding the reins of power.” Then, you should remind yourself that the knocking on the doors is the road to your dream.


The more trained and prepared you are, and the more you understand what you’re getting into, the more willing and able you’ll be to see things through, Welch says. For example, the success of the Roman army is consistently attributed to their discipline and persistence, which was developed through rigorous physical and mental training, Welch says. “The key is to remain optimistic while understanding that obstacles and setbacks are inevitable—and to be ready to take action to surmount them when they come,” he says.


A surprising number of people fail to achieve their goals simply because they fail to take any action at all, Welch says. It’s very important to take one or two steps as soon as you possibly can. “Maybe you can’t find the motivation to write a 30-page paper for school, but you have no problem committing to read over the instructions for the assignment,” he says. “At the very least, you can take five minutes to write out all the steps involved in completing the assignment.” And before you set the project aside, be sure to make a quick written note of precisely what small, manageable task you will do next and when you will do it.


Gritty people have developed the habit of talking themselves into staying focused and committed when they are emotionally or physically exhausted, says Caroline Miller, speaker and author of Getting Grit. When you’re thinking about quitting, or when you’re feeling bad, visualize something that will motivate you—or think of a phrase or a song lyric that will give you the push you need to continue, such as “I am a finisher” or “I am making progress,” she says.


Gritty people have patience because they often have to work very hard over a long period of time to accomplish their goals, Miller says. One exercise you can practice to help improve your patience is to sit quietly and just observe something: a scene out the window, a piece of fruit. Take notes about what you see for 30 minutes. “We are so accustomed to doing things quickly that we miss the nuances in what we see and what we feel, so taking time doing this teaches us the value of waiting and letting things unfold, as opposed to expecting everything to happen instantaneously.”