Why is grit?

Grit is passion and perseverance for a long-term goal. Passion means loving what you do, and staying in love with it. Perseverance means working toward your goal with sustained dedication. Grit is important because anything worth achieving takes time and effort.

To build your grit, there are 4 things you can do:

  1. Explore your interests to cultivate your passion. The surprising fact about people who love what they do is that they didn’t always know what they wanted to be. Passion begins as a little spark. Ask yourself: how do I like to spend my free time? What do I enjoy thinking about? Follow your interests and be curious about how they might develop.

  2. Think about your purpose. You can clarify your purpose by writing about the values that are important to you and why. Purpose ties what you love to the bigger world, so you can see how your goal relates to other people.

  3. Practice. Focus on small sub-skills that are the components of your bigger vision. Don’t just go through the motions, but practice things that are just beyond your current abilities, and focus full attention on them. Get feedback after you practice, reflect on it, and use it going forward.

  4. Maintain a growth mindset. Your abilities are like muscles that grow when challenged. We all fail as we work toward our goals—that’s good! Because each time we fail, we learn something new.

How do I teach grit?

If you are a teacher, parents or anyone who wants to help build grit in others, actively find ways to:

  • Model it. Wear your passion proudly. Share stories of when you failed and learned something from the experience.
  • Name it. If grit is a core value for your classroom, your family, or your organization, make that explicit. Say things like, “In this family, we finish what we begin. We’re not the sort of people who quit in the middle of things, even when they’re hard.”
  • Celebrate it. When you see grit, draw attention to it: “Your work this past quarter has demonstrated enormous dedication. I know it wasn’t always easy. I appreciate your dedication."
  • Enable it. In word and deed, provide consistently high levels of support and challenge: “I am giving you this feedback because I have high standards, and I know you can achieve them.”

Teach Grit

What does grit look like?

Age 3-5, child should be able to...

  • Struggle just a bit—a few minutes, then more with age—on their own, before anyone swoops into solve their problem.
  • Work on something, like solving a puzzle, for a few days, returning to it and realizing it’s possible to stay interested in something even after the initial novelty has diminished.

Age 6-8, child should be able to...

  • Make mistakes without embarrassment or shame.
  • Understand that loving something, like soccer or math, means doing the frustrating or even boring parts as well as the parts that are fun.
  • Commit to doing something that requires a few minutes of daily practice.

Age 9-12, child should be able to...

  • Explore interests and develop awareness of what they enjoy working on.
  • Commit to “finishing the season” or whatever other short-term commitments they’ve made.

Age 13-14, child should be able to...

  • Articulate their interests and be able to take responsibility for deepening them.
  • Choose and complete a semester-long extracurricular activity that requires daily practice of some kind.

Age 14-18, child should be able to...

  • By graduation, choose and complete an extracurricular activity for at least two years and progress in skill and/or responsibility. Ideally, this multi-year commitment would be for two different activities (e.g., newspaper and track).

Research articles about grit

Self-control and grit: Related but separable determinants of success
Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(5), 319–325. 
Duckworth, A., & Gross, J. J. (2014). 

Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087.
Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). 

The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance
Psychological Review, 100(3), 363.
Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R. T., & Tesch-Römer, C. (1993).