How to Develop Grit

How to Develop Grit

Mid-way through January 2021, it’s a tough time for all of us and most of us are just about hanging on in there by our fingertips – keeping small, keeping safe and trying to keep up our spirits and those of the people we love (but whom we may well be forcibly separated from.) My last blog looked at research by Angela Duckworth on GRIT and this blog looks at some very practical ways we might start to develop it.

Grit is closely related to resilience and it’s not so much about motivation as about developing good habits and breaking bad ones. How each person demonstrates grit or increases grit is a very individual thing and starts with an honest assessment of where they are in their life and where they really want to be:

A step by step approach to increasing grit 

Step 1:What are your goals in life at the present time?

For example, you might say:

  • To exercise for at least 20 minutes every day
  • To find a new job
  • To join a dating app and start dating

Whatever it is, be clear about what you’re going after.

Step 2: Build grit using small steps

So often we think that grit is about how we respond to extreme situations, but what about everyday circumstances? Mental toughness is like a muscle. It needs to be worked to grow and develop. If you really want to leave your present job and find a new one, do something, even if it’s very small, to move yourself nearer to achieving that goal: revise your LinkedIn profile, update your CV, do a bit of informal networking to see what opportunities are out there, sign up for alerts from job sites, practice your interview technique. 

Step 3: Build strong habits and stop depending purely on motivation.

Grit isn’t about getting an incredible dose of inspiration or courage. It’s about building the daily habits that allow you to stick to a schedule and overcome challenges and distractions over and over and over again. Be consistent. 

Grit comes down to your habits. It’s about doing the things you know you’re supposed to do on a more consistent basis. It’s about your dedication to daily practice and your ability to stick to a schedule.

It’s all about habits

A lot of us tend to think that there is a secret ingredient that we lack but we see that others have – motivation. If only I could motivate myself to give up smoking or to get fit, we say. But actually there IS no magic ingredient and all awful lot of what we think is motivation is simply about looking at our habits, getting rid of bad ones and starting new ones.

Atomic Habits

My favourite book on habits is by James Clear – Atomic Habits. He says that a tiny change in your behavior will not transform your life overnight. But turn that behavior into a habit that you perform every day and it absolutely can lead to big changes. 

He says that “The holy grail of habit change is not a single 1 percent improvement, but a thousand of them. It’s a bunch of atomic habits stacking up, each one a fundamental unit of the overall system.”

The book is packed full of very practical advice and examples and I can highly recommend it. One of his tips is to do what he calls use habit  stacking:

If you want to build a new habit, you could try stacking it on top of an existing habit. Let’s say you want to start meditating, but you’re struggling to find the time. Try thinking about those things you do effortlessly each day, like drinking coffee in the morning. Then just stack the new habit on top. Commit to meditating each morning when you’ve finished your coffee, and build on the natural momentum that comes from a habit you already have.  James Clear’s website

2 excellent talks by James Clear on habits:

Some quotes from James Clear:

  • “Just as atoms are the building blocks of molecules, atomic habits are the building blocks of remarkable results.”
  • “This is the meaning of the phrase atomic habits—a regular practice or routine that is not only small and easy to do, but also the source of incredible power; a component of the system of compound growth.”
  • “Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.”

Need some advice and support?

If you would like to find out more about how to develop grit, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.


Book a counselling session today!


See also: GritHow to Build ResilienceResilience