Do you have enough passion to show GRIT?

Grit, according to Angela Duckworth, is ‘perseverance and passion for long term goals’. Duckworth is a former McKinsey consultant who turned professor.  One of her break through insights was that at the elite United States Military Academy, West Point, a cadet’s Grit score was the best predictor of success in the rigorous summer training. Grit mattered more than intelligence, leadership ability or physical fitness.

You can measure your Grit for free with the 12-item Grit scale here. The twelve questions are quick and easy and will give you a Grit score between 1 and 5. On the same website you can find about 40 peer reviewed articles about Grit.

Similar to Mental Toughness as defined by professor Peter Clough, Grit is strongly correlated with one of the big 5 personality traits; conscientiousness, which is the desire to do a task well. But unlike Mentally Tough individuals, people that score high on Grit don’t necessarily are good in controlling their emotions and behaviours. And interestingly enough Grit is not positively correlated with intelligence.

Commitment according to the Oxford dictionary is ‘the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause or activity’. Compared to Commitment, which is one of the four attributes of Mental Toughness, Grit adds two components:

  1. Deep passion for the goal or objective.
  2. Willingness to work for an extended time to meet the goal.

To overcome adversity, pain and to put in continuous effort over a longer period, one needs to have passion for a bigger goal. This passion will often come from a deeper sense of meaning or purpose in life. People with Grit will likely have this sense of purpose. They will know their ‘WHY’. As Friedrich Nietzsche said; “He who has a strong enough why can bear almost any how”

“He who has a strong enough why can bear almost any how”

This ‘WHY’, I believe, can also be the weakness in the use of Grit.

Off course there are people who wake up one day and know their purpose. Some of the young professionals I work with in a social enterprise have passion beaming from their eyes. A young entrepreneur and founder of a successful start-up recently told me he want to be Elon Musk like, really make a difference. These youngsters are blessed with passion and purpose. They will likely show Grit to accomplish their goals.

But many individuals don’t have their meaning, purpose or WHY clear. Some will try to find it and many never will. It took me 40 years, some serious reading and thinking and becoming a father to get some clarity on my purpose and ‘WHY’. So when you take the Grit measurement, also try to get clarity on your ‘WHY’. Ask yourself, what is my reason for being, what do I want to achieve and what will be my legacy?

Once you’ve answered that, Grit will almost automatically follow!


Niels is an AQR accredited master trainer in Mental Toughness and Life Styles Inventory coach.

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