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What’s grit and how can I get it?

By Trisha Sheehan

The author Angela Duckworth defines grit as passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals. She explains it is the ability to persist, to have direction and commitment to something. Perseverance is the ability to continue to work hard even through challenges or failure.

Duckworth, the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, developed the Grit Scale. She names four assets that people with grit share.


We look to interest first. We develop passion by enjoying what we do. There will be pieces of our work we don’t enjoy as much but for those who have grit they truly love what they do.


Those who have grit intentionally grow their capacity to practice. Perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do work better than we did yesterday or the day before that. We want to improve and not just settle for mediocracy.


Purpose grows our passion. Knowing and understanding the work we do is important to you but also contributes to the well-being of others - it helps us develop that passion.


Hope builds our perseverance. Hope is the ability to keep going when things are difficult, to wade through the doubts. According to Duckworth, hope defines every stage.

We can cultivate each of these assets. First find what your true interests are. Discover what you love to do. You may have to try new things to discover your true interests.

Practice your interest to improve. You will want to set a goal that stretches you and challenges you. Add in deliberate concentration and effort as well as feedback and refinement and you’re on your way to growing your grit.

Developing your sense of purpose can begin at any stage of your life. Take time to reflect on how the work you’re already doing can make a positive contribution to society. How can you think about your current work and make adjustments to enhance its connection to your core values.

We can develop hope by modeling a growth mindset. With a growth mindset we know we can learn to do better. A growth mindset means a language change, for example, use phrases like “I know this is hard. Don’t feel bad if you can’t get it right now. You will get it!” instead of, “This is hard. Don’t worry if you can’t do it.”

We can have all the natural smarts or talents in the world but without grit, we may not succeed. Without it, talent may be nothing more than unmet potential. It is only with effort that talent becomes a skill that leads to success.

How gritty are you? What are you doing to develop your grit?

-- Trisha Sheehan, Extension educator

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  1. Trish,
    Thank you for sharing this resource. I would consider myself in the "Practice" phase often in my youth development work. Learning from mistakes and working to continually improve is vital to growing as a professional in our work.

  2. Thank you Trish! I really enjoyed it!


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