Gritify Your Life

Five simple ways to upgrade and grow your GRIT

Posted Dec 04, 2014

In the world of the psychology of success, GRIT’s hot.  You would be hard pressed to attend a conference on education, parenting, leadership, athletics, performance, or personal success without hearing the word uttered at least once.  More and more it’s a highlighted session or defining theme, making the new frontier of growing GRIT all the more essential. 

So far, the conversation has focused on appreciating and understanding basic grit, or what we’ll call “grit 1.0.”  grit 1.0 is about the degree or quantity of perseverance or persistence, as in “How persistent are you?”, or “”How much grit does she have?” 

The time has come to advance the conversation and upgrade GRIT.

The research my team and I embarked on in the development of the book GRIT, reveals that quality may actually trump quantity.  Enter GRIT 2.0, or simply, GRIT. 

GRIT Definition

You intuitively grasp the qualitative differences between Bad GRIT and Good GRIT, Dumb GRIT and Smart GRIT. 

Relentlessly going after your goals in ways that are even unintentionally harmful to others, or beating your head to a bloody pulp rather than re-assessing or re-routing your approach may score high on quantity, not so much on quality.  When it comes to upgrading your GRIT, the key is to focus on not just how much, but how.   It turns out that growing both quality and quantity —holistic improvement of GRIT—creates the biggest upside.

The GRIT Progression


Appreciate—When you consider the level of relentless effort it takes to get anything noteworthy done, it’s easy to value GRIT.  93% of the more than 100,000 people my team and I have surveyed worldwide report getting things done has become tougher, more complex, less clear, more frustrating—murkier and muckier—and it takes longer…all good reasons for GRIT to rise to the top of our consciousness.

Grok—Beyond mere comprehension, to “grok” is to know it at a cellular level, to understand something so completely that it resides inside of you.  I’ve been researching GRIT in dozens of countries for more than 15 years.  But it is over the past few years that our understanding of GRIT has suddenly accelerated and intensified.  As a result, we can now move forward on the GRIT Progression.  GRIT it is something that can be both measured and improved.

Gauge—Our ability to validly and reliably assess grit has evolved dramatically from basic questions for grit 1.0, to more complex, multidimensional analyses that unearth both the quantity and quality of grit, that make up GRIT 2.0.  The GRIT Gauge™, our newest psychometric assessment which we prepared for the new book, for example, measures all dimensions and aspects of GRIT, providing a more in-depth analysis and set of insights.

Grow—Based on direct experience and experimentation with close to one million people across 63 countries, we can confidently say GRIT is something you can permanently upgrade and measurably improve.   Certain specific tools tend to create the most consistent gains. 

Here are five simple starter tips.

As background, it may be useful to know, GRIT is comprised of four dimensions.  Each stands on it’s own statistically and behaviorally.  But when woven together, these four dimensions—Growth, Resilience, Instinct, and Tenacity—forge GRIT 2.0.  Each can be turned into a GRIT Gainer™, or GRIT-enhancing tool. 


Growth dimension of GRIT
Growth—Carol Dweck at Stanford is right.  Growth is a mindset.  But, when it comes to GRIT, research reveals it is about more than having a “growth” or “fixed” mindset.  In the world of GRIT, Growth encompasses your propensity to rise above the immediate situation to seek fresh, alternative perspectives, ideas, and insights as a way to improve your approach, expertise, and chances of success. 

GRIT Tip #1: Gritify any goal or plan by asking, “What additional, new, fresh insight/information/input should I/we seek to enhance our current plan and long-term chances of success?”

Resilience dimension of GRIT
Resilience—It’s hard to imagine.  But, when I began my research 35 years ago, I literally had to explain, and often spell the term “resilience” with any client or firm with whom I was exploring methods for measuring or enhancing this core element of human endeavor.   To this day, when I ask a group of hundreds of people, “If someone is resilient they…?”  The room-wide response is, “Bounce back!” 

But resilience, especially in the world of GRIT, is about much more than bouncing back.  In our collaborative efforts with Harvard Business School and MIT, we arrived at this definition:  Resilience is your capacity to be strengthened and improved by adversity.  So, the ultimate quest is to become more “Response Able.”  Response Ability is, your ability to respond optimally to whatever happens the moment it strikes. 

GRIT Tip #2: Every time you face any adversity, simply ask, “How can I/we respond more optimally—better and faster—to this adversity?”  Or, “How can we harness this adversity, so we look back and say, ‘Thank goodness this happened, we’d never be where we are now if it hadn’t!’”

Instinct dimension of GRIT
Instinct—Think about that person who consistently pursues the wrong goals, or goes after their dreams in less than effective ways.  Over time, that pattern can lead to a tragic life.   That’s why Instinct, your gut level propensity to pursue the right goals in the best possible ways, is so critical to true GRIT. 

Relentlessness is powerful.  Refined relentlessness is unbeatable.  That’s why knowing when to step back, re-assess, and if necessary re-route is key to long-term effort, energy, and success.

GRIT Tip #3: Gritify any effort by simply asking these questions: “Is this still the right goal?  Is this the best possible version of the goal?  If not, how would we refine the goal to make it even more compelling and true?  Is our current plan the best way to get there?  If not, how can we refine and improve our approach to at least increase our chances of success?”

Tenacity dimension of GRIT
Tenacity—Persistent, unrelenting effort defines what most of us think of when we hear the word, “grit.”  Our research shows that most people who accomplish something truly noteworthy go through a period of perceived zealotry, meaning the people closest to them begin to question their judgment.  Yet it is that one additional, beyond-any-reasonable-expectation effort that creates the breakthroughs the rest of us get to admire and enjoy.

GRIT Tip #4: GRIT-up your pursuits by asking, “If we were to give this one more wholehearted effort, where and how should I/we go for it to most dramatically enhance progress and success?”

G-R-I-T.  This is what True GRIT is all about.  But none of it means a thing, without that thing deep inside you that makes you want to take it on in the first place.  That’s where Tip #5 comes into play. 

Robustness dimension of GRIT
Robustness:  The Bonus Factor—One of the hidden factors lurking behind attempting to lead a gritty life is the wear and tear it has upon you over time.  How well you hold up—whether the journey ultimately strengthens or weakens you—is what Robustness is all about.

In the world of materials science, Robustness is defined as “How well a material maintains its ideal state in spite of the unexpected perturbations that may assault it.”  If, for example, you were to build a house in, say, Joplin, Missouri, you would certainly build it to withstand a tornado.  But, what if that primeval fault line deep under that part of the U.S. unleashed its fury with a 7.2 earthquake?  How well your house holds up to that, the unexpected determines how robust it truly is.  

The same is true for us humanoids.  Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to fortify our Robustness, so we have enough of, and ideally our best version of ourselves left to enjoy what we dug deep to achieve.  Here’s one.

GRIT Tip #5—Spring clean your goals, by applying greater GRIT to fewer things.  Re-assess what matters most, and why, and have the courage to focus on the best, shed the rest.

Obviously, these simple tips serve as a basic, but meaningful start—a pocket Swiss army knife you can whip out and employ—to grow your GRIT.

Ultimately, the path to greater GRIT never ends, nor can its potential to fuel a “gritifying” life be overstated.  As my team and I coach people and see them make real strides, the ultimate quest for them, and for all of us, becomes something I call “Optimal GRIT,” demonstrating the Smartest, “Goodest”, Strongest G-R-I-T, in all that you do.   

Photo credit: © Copyright 2014, PEAK Learning, Inc.

About the Author

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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