How to Develop Grit: the Best Indicator of Success According to Research

Do you feel like you missed out on the talent jackpot?  Whether you answer yes or no, you’re looking at it all wrong.  What you accomplish in life depends less on your talent and more on your passion and perseverance.

In her New York Times bestseller Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that the best indicator for success is not talent or intelligence, it’s grit.  Grit is composed of two parts—passion and perseverance.  Think of the two as “push and pull factors”: passion pushes you to engage in something; perseverance pulls you through the tough times.

Unfortunately, an obsession with talent often distracts you from your potential.  Talent is seen as a mysterious quality, something bestowed by the gods.  You have it or you don’t.  But there’s a danger in saying someone else is more talented than you.  It lets you off the hook.  You accept the status quo, stop trying, and call it quits.  The trying is what Duckworth calls grit.  Grit is not mysterious at all.  It’s practical persistence available to anyone.  And it’s the surest way to success.

Here’s how to develop grit:

1.  An Overarching Vision 

Grit is fueled by having a “calling.”  An overarching vision—the purpose behind everything that you do.  People who describe their work as a calling, rather than a “job” or “career” do better work, are more productive, and have fewer sick days.  And, you can cultivate your calling through what Duckworth calls an “other-oriented purpose.”

Think about how your work connects to other people, to your family, to society, and not just an expression of your personal values.  This is especially helpful on the tough days when you’re struggling with passion and perseverance.  Even the most mundane “jobs” can become meaningful when injected with purpose.

2.  The Goal Pyramid

Passion can be like a fleeting emotion.  To combat this, you need a “coherent goal structure;” just like a food pyramid, orchestrate and structure your daily tasks so that your smaller goals and tasks feed into your larger goals.  Think of it like adding firewood into the fire-pit; linking your smaller goals to your big goals keeps up the momentum.

3.  Quality and Quantity

It’s not just the quantity of time that you need to spend on a task, it’s the quality of time.  Many people simply plateau—they reach a satisfactory level that doesn’t bring them to the success they desire or are capable of.  Duckworth explains that “stretch goals” are necessary.  You need to always be pushing yourself past your comfort zone with every session.

You need to constantly be asking yourself:  “am I getter better at this?”

4.  Optimism 

Gritty people are optimists—when they encounter obstacles, they persevere because they assume that problems are solvable.  Adopt what’s been referred to as a “growth mindset” and view all experiences, especially failures, as opportunities for growth.

Similarly, gritty people are future-oriented.   They don’t expect accomplishments to be perfect because they’re always striving for the next level.  This perspective might seem grim, but staying future-oriented fuels perseverance and prevents focusing on past regret.  Of course, this doesn’t mean you cannot live in the moment, it just prevents you from being stuck in the moment.

5.  A One-Year Commitment  

Duckworth encourages parents to have their children commit to an activity for at least a year before they are allowed to give up.  It’s a good rule for adults also.  This commitment strengthens your perseverance muscle, and allows you to actually enjoy the upswing following the plateau in learning any new skill.

6.  Find a Role Model 

Find someone who embodies grittiness; someone who is doing purposeful work and succeeding; someone living out his/her calling.  We are wired to mimic others, so we should be intentional with who emulate.

Final Thoughts

The secret to success?  Grit.

Regardless of your talent, you can develop grit.  But you have to work at it and keep working at it.  Don’t expect immediate gratification, but do expect long-term success.  Grit is more about stamina than intensity.  Grit demands that you put in the hours.  Start applying these tips and become a gritty.