The MuchSmarter Blog

Grit and Much Smarter

Steve Schecter
June 9, 2016

In the last couple of posts, I have highlighted a personal quality that makes a huge difference in both your success and wellbeing. This quality—grit—enables you to put out significant and sustained effort over time. As Angela Duckworth amply demonstrates in her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, this kind of sustained effort leads people to the top of their fields. Whether your interest is academics, music, sports, business or virtually any other endeavor, grit is an important part of making full use of your potential.

Let’s take a closer look at how you build this highly important quality, how you become more gritty.

From the sound of it, grit is a kind of toughness. When things get tough, you simply “grit your teeth” and keep going.

While it’s true that sheer will power and determination play a part in grit, you need more.   You also need to be smart to have perseverance.

What keeps us going when things get difficult? It’s how we think and how we feel.

Let’s take each of these factors in turn. 

How you think about difficulty, mistakes, and setbacks is all-important. What you say to yourself when faced with a challenge can determine whether you make good use of the challenge or allow yourself to be defeated.   For example, suppose you are preparing for your SAT or ACT and you get a “bad” score the first time you take the test. If you respond by thinking, “I’m no good at standardized tests”, or “I’m not smart enough”, you might decide not to try again. Or, if you try again, you might do so half-heartedly and with mediocre preparation. On the other hand, if you say to yourself, “I have more than enough mind for this game,” or “difficulty is only temporary,” you pave the way for continued effort and eventual success.

How you feel about difficulty, mistakes, and setbacks is equally important. How do you typically respond when things don’t go the way you had hoped? Do you become deeply discouraged?  Do you get down on yourself? Do you get worried and fearful? 

While all of these responses are perfectly understandable, they may not be helpful either. Again, let’s take the example of the SAT or ACT. Suppose you don’t score as well as you like. If you become downhearted, self-critical, and worried, it will tend to make it harder, not easier, for you to rebound for your next attempt.  If discouragement, self-judgment, and worry are your habitual responses, then making any effort at all can become distasteful. On the other hand, if you readily let go of these limiting emotions, if you are able to respond with calm and confidence, then you will also find yourself able to keep going, to make the sustained effort over time that will bring you success.

Our coaching is designed to teach you the habits of thinking and feeling that will enable you to respond effectively to the challenges of your life. Over time, you can learn to say those things to yourself that will enable you to learn from your mistakes. You can learn to respond emotionally in a way that keeps you getting stronger.

Want grit?  We're here to help you find it.  

Until next time,



Angela Duckworth, Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance. Simon and Schuster, 2016

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