When I come across the word “Grit”, I often find it in a positive connotation. People that have it are deemed extraordinary. People that don’t have it, feel inadequate for not having it. Parents feel they must install this trait onto their children. In order to find a definition, I put the word into google and the first one that pops up validates my feelings that grit is always positive:
In psychology, grit is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s perseverance of effort combined with the passion for a particular long-term goal or end state (a powerful motivation to achieve an objective) (wikipedia)
Doesn’t that sound nice? Having the perseverance and passion or motivation to achieve your goals. I could use some of that. Turns out though, I am a person with high grit (my grit score is higher than 90% of other people’s – check your grit score here from the grit pioneer Angela Duckworth: https://angeladuckworth.com/grit-scale/) and yet, anytime I would see goals through with a lot of effort, I would not describe them as passionate or motivation. Rather a blind determination to have to see things through and an addiction to see them through all the way till their end state. That got me thinking, is grit perhaps not that useful at all and perhaps in some way, overrated?
Grit also doesn’t correlate with any other traits we deem as “good” such as kindness, trustworthy, loyal, courageous. In other words, having grit does not make you a better person. It might make you more likely to be the person to finish a project at work, but that could be by the time everyone has forgotten about that project anyway. It may come in handy if you want to see things through in your life, but grit is not all that glitters. For example, studies have shown that grit does not correlate with intelligence. It does correlate with test scores, because people like me who are not that intelligent actually have to use their grit to study their butts of to get a good grade. Unlike my husband who I met at college who never had to study for an exam and still did amazingly. He never had to rely on grit, while I painstakingly pushed through (unsurprising to some, in general women tend to have more grit then men (study). Some research has found that grit was not a predictor of life satisfaction or depression (Vela et al., 2017). While handy in achieving goals, it does not mean we are happy with our lives and avoid depression.
On the other hand, grit seems to be quite handy. According to a recent study, grittier students were more likely to demonstrate an increased level of self-control, feelings of worth, resilience and growth mindset (which means that if you want to learn something you believe you can). Gritty students were more likely to illustrate a decreased level of perceived stress. The study adds people with grit understood importance of happiness, independence, comfort and a stress free life while recognizing the responsibility they held over their own success (study). But what it doesn’t say is if grit makes people this way, or if you are in general a person with resilience, growth mindset, feelings of worth that this is the thing that makes you gritty.
At the end of the day, if you want to have more grit in your life, sure by all means go for it (here is an article how). But you should realize that grit is not all that is vital to live a successful and happy life. Perhaps we put too much emphasis on grit or better said, a type of grit that reflects in material, entrepreneurial success. A person with less grit is not lazy or unsuccessful. It just means that perhaps they are more logical to put something aside when it doesn’t work for them, unlike us gritty people who push no matter how hard it is to make it through (to perhaps only be half as good at it in the end – just like my water paintings). Grit is not reserved for a certain group of people and grit does not in any way guarantee you a successful life. Perhaps grit is good, but you are also good without grit.