Grit – the combination of perseverance, resilience, determination and commitment

Finishing an ultra marathon - True Grit

Finishing an ultra marathon – True Grit


In a comment on my previous post about doing work we love, Roberta of MoreThymeThanDough suggested that much of life is about attitude and grit.

Attitude, how we think about and respond to events, situations, people, adversity, how we make the best of less than ideal situations.

Grit is a recipe for survival and success, its ingredients include: perseverance, resilience, determination, commitment, without grit it is difficult or impossible to overcome adversity, create a better life or achieve much of anything.

Grit according to psychologist Angela Duckworth is the key element in success. An article in Brainpickings delves deeper into her work and includes a link to her talk on TED Radio Hour, one of her definitions is “Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

In her work with students, she discovered that those most likely to graduate were those that had that quality of grit, not those from better or worse backgrounds nor the privileged ones enjoying most of the generally recognised predictors of success.

Why should grit be a scarce commodity in our modern world? A world offering more advantages in more ways for more people than at any time in history.

That’s why. More advantages, more ways, for more people.

Travel to the poorer parts of less developed regions of the world where grit is essential for survival, either you have, develop, find, learn, grit or you starve and die. No welfare, no food stamps, no safety net.

Why, since the Chinese government partially relaxed its control over the economy, have we seen extraordinary growth and millions of Chinese raise themselves out of poverty? Why do thousands of the poor in Bangladesh keep working under appalling conditions in dangerous, overcrowded clothing factories? Why is there a steady supply of child labour in many parts of the world?

The answer in all those cases is because they have grit. Grit allows them to choose to work under bad conditions in the hope of improving their lives. Grit allows them to survive. Without grit, the only alternative is to give up, starve and die.

Most inhabitants of Western democracies have not had to make the choice between having grit and starving for three or four generations since the great depression or earlier in the 20th century. Yes there are exceptions, yes there are homeless people, social outcasts and others who fall between the cracks and survive at the most basic level or don’t survive. But they are a minority.

It’s too easy to whine, complain about the rich and demand their share of entitlements for many people, easier than falling back on the inner quality of grit, to get up and get going.

Do you have reserves of grit and how is your attitude?


Peter Wright





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  4 comments for “Grit – the combination of perseverance, resilience, determination and commitment

  1. Roberta
    April 3, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Great follow up to your previous post. I am happy you found some inspiration in what I said.

    Indeed, today’s young people have little incentive to develop the hard skin and ‘grit’ to withstand the vagaries of life. A depression or war would change that quickly, but with a lot of pain and suffering.

    I would not have said this growing up, but with the perspective of time and some wisdom I can say that my childhood years living with two dueling, chaotic alcoholics who often took their own children as hostages in their battles forced me to develop some grit.

  2. Roberta
    April 3, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    P.S. Thanks too for introducing me to Angela Duckworth and Brainpickings. Great blog. 🙂

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