Grit | What it Means and Why You Need It

It’s a single syllable, four letter word that embodies everything that we need to succeed. Whether we’re working out, struggling through life’s challenges or pushing through another three minutes in the ring, this trait is what we need:


So, what is grit and why do you need it? In this post, we’ll explore the true essence of grit. Then we’ll uncover four scientifically supported ways that you can develop grit to make you more successful as you pursue your long-term goals both in and out of the ring.

What is Grit?

Angela Duckworth is a psychologist, author, and MacArthur Fellowship winner who has done extensive research on the subject of grit. She defines grit as ‘perseverance and passion for long-term goals.’ While often used as a synonym for resilience, grit differs in that it is the motivational drive that keeps us going when a task or goal gets tough, whereas resilience relates to the ability to bounce back when we experience a reversal.

Grit is summed up in the expression: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Rather than being something that we are born with, researchers believe that grit is a part of a growth mindset that can be developed with practice. Carol Dweck is a researcher who has done extensive work on how to develop a growth mindset in which challenges are seen as opportunities to learn rather than obstacles to defeat. She has observed that people with a growth mindset can develop grit and, as a result, are more likely to achieve the outcomes that they set for themselves.

Developing Grit

In this section, we identify four practical ways that you can develop grit. By dedicating yourself to putting in the hard work, you’ll be able to forge ahead and overcome obstacles to ultimately achieve the long-term goals that fuel a purposeful life.

Do What You Love

If you are not passionate about what you’re doing, it’s going to be increasingly difficult to stick with it when times get tough. Perseverance can only take you so far. Dedicating your time and effort to something that doesn't fuel your soul and give you a sense of purpose is going to cause you to burn out quickly. Yes, the definition of grit may be tapping into your tenacity to overcome a challenge, but what's the end game? Discovering and pursuing what you love is going to make it far easier for you to keep going when the temptation is to give up on it.

To discover your passion, you’ve got to get out there and experiment. Try a range of different types of exercise, for example, to find out which gets you the most excited. Once you’ve found it, UPenn researcher and colleague of Duckworth, Adam Grant suggests finding a mentor who can help you to develop skill. Grant says:

“Often interest precedes the development of talent. It’s having a coach or teacher who really makes something exciting to be involved in that leads you to put in the practice necessary to become an expert at it.”

If you’ve discovered that boxing fitness is your passion, then working with one of the Gloveworx coaches will help show you different ways to help you develop grit and take you out of your comfort zone so that you can succeed.

Deliberate Practice

If we are good at doing something, there is a much greater likelihood that we will stick with it. To improve, you need to do deliberate practice which is when you focus on developing the aspects of yourself that you aim to improve. Let's face it: you won't always have a natural, innate talent for the things you love. However, your optimism stemming from positive psychology, hard work, time and effort will always yield better results than talent will.

In order to practice deliberately you need to develop the habit of analyzing your sessions to determine the areas of need. After each workout, perform a mental debrief. Firstly you should acknowledge and feel good about what went well (this is an important aspect of positive psychology and a growth mindset). Then, hone in and reflect on what you could have done better. Use this feedback to guide your future training sessions so that you are actively working on your weaknesses.

To effectively develop the deliberate practice habit, remember the three ‘f’s:

  • Focus.
  • Feedback.
  • Fix It.

Practicing these steps will also help you learn to become more coachable, so that you discuss your mistakes and frustration with a coach and work to overcome them.

Finding Purpose

If you were told to go into your backyard and dig a twenty-foot hole, would you?

Probably not, but what if you were told that there is a safe containing $10,000 buried there, would that encourage you to start digging? Perhaps, because you now have a purpose. That is the difference between a person who is likely to give up and one who has true grit. The latter has found a sense of purpose in what they’re doing. To be truly motivating that purpose needs to revolve around serving other people. Duckworth illustrates this with the following example:

“Three bricklayers are asked, ‘What are you doing?’
The first says, ‘I’m laying bricks.’
The second says, ‘I am building a church.’
The third says, ‘I’m building the house of God.’
The first bricklayer has a job. The second has a career. But the third has a calling.”

By focusing on how you are benefiting other people, you will find greater purpose in what you are doing. If you are a parent, for example, think about how becoming fitter and stronger is providing a great role model for your kids. Your self-improvement allows you to be a better provider, who will be around to guide, love and advise your kids for a long time to come.

Have Hope

The final step toward developing your grit pertains to having a special type of hope. This hope is dependent. It is not focused on the uncontrollable elements of the universe around you, but on the outcome of your efforts. You have hope that your hard work and deliberate practice will pay off. You will achieve the desired outcome because you are in control of your destiny. Despite what life throws at you, it is your effort that will determine what the end will be.

Rather than having the feeling that things will be better tomorrow, you need to resolve that you will make things better. To develop this hopeful attitude, you should start practicing optimistic self-talk. Here are three key messages to ingrain in your brain:

  • Bad things are temporary.
  • Bad things have a specific cause; they aren’t universal.
  • If it’s out of your control, it’s not your fault.

The Pay-Off

Developing grit will allow you to push through when others are likely to quit. As a result, you will be able to maintain the consistency that is needed to achieve your goals. You will have the mental toughness that is the hallmark of a champion, and, as a result, you will meet your goals both in and out of the boxing ring.

Grit will also carry over into all aspects of your life. Whether you're struggling to study to get higher test scores or navigating a challenging team environment at work, having grit will help you ditch the fixed mindset and help you achieve a lot in the face of challenges life throws your way. It's a skill that you can pass onto your children, helping them learn from your mistakes and setting them up with a growth mindset as they pursue their own goals throughout life.

When you're ready to step out of your comfort zone, put in the hard work and develop your grit, get in the ring with a Gloveworx training session. Make it a family event; ask about our kids training sessions and Become Unstoppable together.