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Success is said to come from many different sources: passion, hard work, focus, drive, and ideas that interrupt the cultural narrative and introduce a new conversation. Some people think success comes from a culture of self-improvement, from a life of contribution and service, or from persistence in the face of overwhelming obstacles.
Angela Lee Duckworth, a seventh grade teacher who went to grad school to become a researcher, thinks success is really about grit.
She came to this conclusion by noting that the seventh grade students who did well in her class were not more talented: they simply took the time and made the effort to understand the material. Her subsequent research of a large number of people who did well in a wide variety of careers confirmed her original premise.
Duckworth herself thinks a singular definition of grit is elusive because it “has hundreds of correlates with nuances and anomalies, and your level depends on the expression of their interaction at any given point. Sometimes it is stronger, sometimes weaker, but the constancy of your tenacity is based on the degree to which you can access, ignite, and control it.”
With that in mind, here are 11 ways to know if you have grit in your own life:
1. You make embarrassing mistakes but keep on trying.
The fear of failure is what stops people from succeeding, not the failure itself.
Most people quit trying to do something after they fail a few times. Many even quit the first time they fail. Failure can often be embarrassing. You make silly mistakes as you struggle to learn something and others are quick to mock you.
However, someone with grit is not dissuaded by failure. They see it as something they have not yet learned, not as a reason to stop.
2. You keep fighting even when you can’t win.
We can all do well when we’re winning. We have motivation and momentum. It’s when you keep on trying, doing one thing after another, and nothing works that you show grit. Grit is carrying on when there appears to be no good reason to continue.
3. You act with courage even when you’re scared.
Courage can be defined as stepping out of your comfort zone. One person finds public speaking terrifying while another thinks it’s as easy as talking to a group of friends. The difference has nothing to do with ability. The first person is breaking out of hiscomfort zone while the second is within his comfort zone. Grit is finding the courage to do something unfamiliar.
4. You believe and stay positive.
It’s easy to believe when there are reasons for it, and it’s easy to stay positive when there are some signs of success. But it takes grit to believe when you have no reason to and to stay positive despite one failure after another.
5. You stay true to your vision.
A vision is an idealization of how something can be. As you try and express your vision in the world, to manifest it, you’ll come across all sorts of opposition. People will point out how impossible it is to achieve what you conceive and circumstances will also conspire against you. Yet despite all this proof that you are hopelessly deluded, if you have grit you’ll stay the course.
6. You’re conscientious.
A conscientious person is someone who is committed. They don’t just show up for practice, they are there to get good enough to win the gold medal. They don’t just study for a test, they aim to win it. They don’t just launch a business, they want to lead the field. This ambition to be the best is backed up by conscientiousness—doing what is necessary to achieve the desired outcome. It’s doing the work and doing it consistently.
7. You practice with a purpose.
Duckworth’s idea of practice is putting in at least twenty hours practice each week for over ten years. This is strikingly similar to the famous rule of 10,000 hours in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. It takes time to be great, to learn all the nuances of any field, and the only way that appears to work is single-minded focus and putting in the time to attain mastery.
8. You’re resilient.
Resilience is much more important than stamina or endurance. It’s actually based on a belief in the meaning of your purpose and your ability to influence people and change events, and that everything positive and everything negative is conspiring to help you learn and grow.
9. You strive for excellence, not perfection.
Excellence and perfection are not synonyms. Perfectionism is neurotic; it’s based on the belief that one is not good enough. Excellence is trying to constantly raise your standards. Another difference is that perfection is trying to raise self-esteem while excellence is expressing high self-esteem.
10. You don’t care about the ROI.
When people invest time, money, energy, and heart into something, they hope to get a greater return than they put in. This is not how someone with grit thinks—they will keep on trying whether they are rewarded for it or not.
11. You don’t rely on support.
People may or may not support you. The amount of support you have when you start is not a deciding factor for people with grit.
Grit is succeeding because you have the endurance to stick things out. You follow your vision and make it happen regardless of how life tries to stop you. If you have grit, you can accomplish just about anything.