Passion and perseverance for especially long term goals is how Angela Duckworth defines “Grit.” In a TED Talk from 2013, this psychologist explains what “Grit” is, how it’s needed to accomplish long term goals, and how to develop it. This year, she published her findings in the fascinating book “Grit.”
She illustrates the great benefits of Grit with stories ranging from West Point Military Academy to low-income classrooms in New York to the athletic field. Parents will be drawn to her chapter, “Parenting for Grit.” Hope will increase for their children because she contends that grit is something that can be developed.
My wife and I have spoken to our kids about this concept a lot lately. When we’ve seen this “stick-to-it-ness” in our kids, we’ve complimented them. When we’ve seen them demonstrate a “never give up” attitude we’ve encouraged them. This is a character trait that we desire for our kids…and ourselves. After all, Grit isn’t just for kids…it’s for us!
In Duckworth’s book she explains that effort counts twice in life. Here’s how it works:
“talent x effort = skill” and “skill x effort = achievement.”
Highly accomplished people, whether that be in the boardroom or on the athletic field, are not just talented people, they demonstrate consistency over time in the same direction. Yet “Grit” is not only about perseverance. It’s equally about passion, that is, caring about the same thing over a long period of time.
All of us have heard stories about kids who work hard and have talent in a sport but it is not fun for them. They may be really good at it, but they don’t stick with it because they would rather play something else. My oldest daughter is tall for her age and a very fast runner. She has the raw talent. Yet she doesn’t have much interest in running. She has no passion for it. Zip lining in Colorado…yes. Jogging…no.
On the flip side, some talented and very well known athletes discovered a passion for their sport not as a kid, but as an adult. Gold medal triathlete Gwen Jorgensen was a college swimmer and runner, but not triathlete. Her first competitive triathlon was just 6 years ago at the age of 24. Since then, she has dominated Olympic distance triathlons around the world. She always had the talent and effort, but just recently discovered her passion.
To achieve anything of significance in sports, one must demonstrate passion and perseverance over a long period of time. Grit in sport is necessary and can be developed. Grit is a character trait that I want to possess and I want my kids to possess it as well.
Yet, as I was talking with my wife about this, she asked a simple question:
That’s the question I pass along to you. If you want to develop grit in yourself and others, why? What drives your desire to achieve?
That’s a very important question for athletes to consider. I believe that all athletes must answer that question for themselves. Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, contemplated suicide in 2014. How can the best swimmer on planet earth and the most decorated Olympian of all time get to a place of such darkness? Thankfully, he found hope.
Is Grit good? Absolutely! Get it. Develop it. Encourage it. Recognize it. Applaud it. Marvel at it, but also answer the question, “What for?” If you don’t have an answer to that key question, let me offer you several answers that you can count on.
ONE: “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Jesus Christ, is calling us” (Phil. 3:14). Paul, the apostle, decisively moves toward a goal with grit. The reward he is striving for is in the life that is to come.
TWO: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment” (Rom. 5:3-5). The gritty character developed over time will be rewarded in the life to come. All our achievements, as great and as wonderful as they may be, will pale in comparison to rewards in heaven. Those rewards will never tarnish, break, collect dust or be forgotten.
THREE: “Whatever you do, do your work with all your heart, as for the Lord rather than for men knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of your inheritance” (Col. 3:23-24). A future reward is promised for those that have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. For the Christian, the best thing about developing grit in this life is that it will pay eternal rewards in the next. Gritty people will accomplish significant things in this life. But gritty Christians have the added confidence in a future and permanent reward.
Glory in this life fades quickly. Glory in the next never does. Strive to develop grit for a glory that will never disappoint. Athletes, enjoy the trophies. Celebrate the medals. But let those remind you that they can be a foretaste of a glory that is eternal.
For your consideration:
- Are you developing grit in your life?
- For what reason are you developing grit?
If you want to know how you can meet the person of Jesus Christ personally, watch this.