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What Is Grit?

Everyone loves hearing about the overnight sensation who made it big with that one lucky break; he's the upstart composer who wrote his first song while asleep, then he won a Grammy at age 19. Wow. Of course, this romanticized version of success is not what we're talking about here.

We are talking about grit. If you're gritty, you attain success through endurance, perseverance, resilience, passion, hard work, and practice, practice, practice. If you persist and face all the obstacles, you may just win. At least that is the formula of grit. In fact, grit trumps talent, giftedness, and IQ. These factors just don’t mean as much as perseverance.

In recent years, however, the concept of grit has been getting pushback. Some researchers contend that this is a new labeling of old ideas. Arguably, grit is close to the Big Five Personality Trait of conscientiousness. People high in this trait are disciplined, dependable, careful, and goal-directed.

Grit is also close to the construct of hope, an area of inquiry with more than 30 years of research. Having hope means being determined and having the will and the motivation to reach clear-cut goals.

A Show of Character

In a discussion of grit, as well as hope and conscientiousness, character is key. In fact, the study of character strengths is its own domain of inquiry within positive psychology. It is defined as the positive traits reflected in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

The strengths include wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence; all important when tackling any long-term objective. It takes courage for the 80-year-old granny to finally return to college, and this kind of bravery is a show of character.

It's about the determination to achieve and testing one’s mettle. Having a state of mind that can withstand hardship and discomfort is favored over the need for immediate gratification or feel-good emotions while getting to the end goal.

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