If there’s one thing my 20-plus years researching, measuring, and growing GRIT has taught me, it’s that ultimately, GRIT is a choice. Like money or energy, where and how you invest or funnel it is entirely up to you, and will ultimately determine whatever gains you might eventually enjoy. It all comes down to your Why, or the reason you consider any given goal or ambition worthy of your effort over an extended period of time, through smooth and rough terrain.

Where most people go awry is when their Why and Try get out of whack. If showing GRIT means you dig deep to do whatever it takes—especially suffer, sacrifice, and struggle—to achieve your most worthy goals, then it takes a serious dose of Why and relentless infusion of Try to have any hope of achieving your grittiest goals. 

The tool I use with people to create instant alignment and radically enhance their chances of success on any given goal, is called the WhyTry™. You can apply the WhyTry to any context (career, volunteer work, raising kids, relationships, health, etc.), and any long-term, difficult goal.  It’s super simple, quick, and it requires only three simple steps or questions:

“Being brutally honest with yourself about where you are now,

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, (10 is off the charts burning purpose), how strong is your Why? 

2) On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 is the greatest, possible effort imaginable), how strong is your Try?

3) What adjustments do you need to make to optimize and align your Why with your Try?”

© PEAK Learning, Inc. 2014
Source: © PEAK Learning, Inc. 2014

A disconcerting proportion of corporate clients’ offices or meeting rooms I visit are like morgues, with next to no energy, pace, verve, passion, or urgency. It’s like Dawn of the Dead, with a bunch of bedraggled zombies stumbling through the motions as they pursue a mounting stack of ever-more elusive goals. 

When the boss leaves the room, and I ask them to score their Why, it’s not uncommon that what was once a 9 has gradually eroded over months or years to a 2 or 3. Whereas their Try—once they factor in the extra hours and mounting sense of sacrifice—might score an 8 or higher. 

People who live with a Try that chronically and dramatically exceeds their Why, get worn down. Often severely. Like cheap sandpaper, they quickly lose their grit and this affects their overall robustness, the essential element for thriving on the marathon, or “tough mudder” known as modern life.

Conversely, a nonprofit I recently coached rated their Why as a 10! Everyone talked about, was signed up for, and would apparently sacrifice deeply for “The Cause.” In fact, there was nothing they loved more than spending their entire meeting telling stories, sharing examples, and fanning the warm glow of The Cause. It was a complete lovefest. Unfortunately, when asked to privately write down their Try ratings, the team rated each other close to a 2 out of 10. Huh? No wonder they weren’t getting anything done!

The truth is, most everyone has GRIT. Based on my research team’s assessments and analyses, there’s no question that among any group, how much and what kind of GRIT people show can vary significantly. I’m increasingly convinced much of the trick in optimizing whatever GRIT you have is unapologetically investing it in what matters most. 

The challenge is, if you’re like most people, you take on two kinds of goals, those you choose and those chosen for you.  For some, the Why warrants a massive and relentless Try. For others, it takes a WhyTry moment to amplify your GRIT.

Aligning and optimizing your Why and your Try can help unleash your best toward almost any quest. When you strip down human endeavor, one thing’s for sure. Any significant accomplishment takes some serious GRIT. That’s a given. But if, where, and how you invest your GRIT is one of the most powerful choices you can make. 

About the Author

Paul G. Stoltz Ph.D.

Paul G. Stoltz, Ph.D., is the author of GRIT—The New Science of What it Takes to Persevere, Flourish, Succeed, and the CEO of PEAK Learning, Inc.

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