Angela Duckworth TED Talks Education, at the BAM Harvey Lichtenstein Theater. Filmed April 4, 2013. Photo: Ryan Lash


How are we coping with the new lockdown restrictions and worries about the pandemic as we go into 2021? Silly question – 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.)

What does psychology show us about how to deal with this kinds of long term and exceptional stressors? Following on from my three previous blogs about resilience, this blog will look at the topic of grit.  Resilience and grit are closely related and both contribute towards what is known as a growth mindset. 

Angela Duckworth is the most well-known researcher and speaker/writer about grit and she says:

Grit is the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals”.

Grit is about sustained, consistent effort toward a goal (even getting through the next 6 months) even when we struggle, falter, or temporarily fail. Angela Duckworth’s excellent TEDtalk is here:

When we demonstrate grit, it is because we have had the resilience to push ourselves over, through, around, and sometimes under obstacles! According to Angela Duckworth’s research, grit is a question of nature and nurture, not one or the other. She defines grit as passion and perseverance for long-term goals with no particular concern for rewards or recognition along the way. It combines resilience, ambition, and self-control in the pursuit of goals that take months, years, or even decades. She developed the Grit Scale in order to measure it. Her research found that grit is a common factor among the high-achievers she has studied. Her work suggests that grit is unrelated to IQ but is closely related to conscientiousness.Grit has been studied across the lifespan, but Duckworth focuses primarily on how building grit can help adolescents. 

Passion and grit

This is what she has to say about passion, one of grit’s essential components:

“What I mean by passion is not just that you have something you care about. What I mean is that you care about that same ultimate goal in an abiding, loyal, steady way. You are not capricious. Each day, you wake up thinking of the questions you fell asleep thinking about. You are, in a sense, pointing in the same direction, ever eager to take even the smallest step forward than to take a step to the side, toward some other destination. At the extreme, one might call your focus obsessive. Most of your actions derive their significance from their allegiance to your ultimate concern, your life philosophy. You have your priorities in order.”

Resilience and grit both contribute towards a growth mindset:

What is a Growth Mindset? 

Carol Dweck is widely known for her work in this field. Through her research, she identified two mindsets: fixed and growth. A fixed mindset is, “believing your qualities are carved in stone,” while a growth mindset is “the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts”. 

Another excellent TEDtalk – by Carol Dweck:

The experience of these mindsets is on a continuum. It is not possible to always operate from one or the other.  An individual could have a fixed mindset in one area of their life and a growth mindset in another. Maybe you believe you are not athletically-inclined, so you avoid sports or other physically-demanding activities. You believe people are born with athletic prowess. They have a natural talent that you do not possess. However in another area of your life, you feel confident in your public-speaking ability, so you seek out opportunities to do that more often. You also believe it is a skill that develops with practice. Each time you do it and receive feedback, you learn how to get better. This motivates you to keep doing it.

A fixed mindset could hold a person back in all kinds of ways – in education, in the workplace and in relationships. We might avoid situations where we doubt our ability to do well, so limiting our lives in all kinds of ways. 

Dweck found that people with growth mindsets:

  • Embrace challenges
  • Persist in the face of setbacks
  • See effort as the path to mastery
  • Learn from criticism
  • Find lessons and inspiration in the success of others

So, grit, resilience and a growth mindset: we need all three and we really need them now!

Need some advice and support?

If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, 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: ResilienceResilience and Getting Our Emotional Needs MetHow to Build Resilience