Discovering Grit Amidst Challenges

In my journey as an emotional intelligence and leadership coach, I’ve been intrigued by our struggles with completing tasks, maintaining motivation, and achieving goals. As we just passed the new year, these challenges become even more pertinent. This led me to explore the concept of grit, a cornerstone of positive psychology that provides insights into enduring perseverance and passion for long-term goals.

Understanding the Evolution of Grit

Originally highlighted in Walter Mischel’s “marshmallow experiment” (Mischel, 1972), grit has evolved from a simple concept of delayed gratification to a complex trait in positive psychology. Angela Duckworth’s pioneering work defines grit as a combination of passion and perseverance for long-term goals (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007). Research has expanded to explore grit’s role in various life domains, including academic success (Eskreis-Winkler, Duckworth, Shulman, & Beal, 2014) and professional achievement (Duckworth, Kirby, Tsukayama, Berstein, & Ericsson, 2011).

A key question is whether grit is an innate trait or a developable skill. Studies suggest that while there may be genetic factors, grit can indeed be nurtured through experiences and intentional practice (Duckworth & Gross, 2014).

The Impact of Grit in Life and Leadership

Developing grit is vital for both daily activities and long-term projects. Absence of grit often leads to unfinished tasks and unmet goals, whereas its presence can foster remarkable achievements (Robertson-Kraft & Duckworth, 2014). Cultivating grit involves building resilience, embracing challenges, and learning from setbacks.

Strategies for Cultivating Grit

To develop grit, consider these evidence-based strategies:

  1. Establish Long-Term Goals (Duckworth et al., 2007): The journey to grit begins with setting clear, long-term objectives. This involves identifying what you are passionate about and what you want to achieve in the future. For example, whether it’s advancing in your career, learning a new skill, or improving personal relationships, setting specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals can provide a clear roadmap and a sense of purpose.
  2. Develop a Growth Mindset (Dweck, 2006): Embracing a growth mindset is essential in developing grit. This means believing that your abilities and intelligence can be developed with effort and persistence. Challenges, failures, and setbacks are not seen as insurmountable obstacles, but as opportunities to learn and grow. Cultivating a growth mindset involves changing your self-talk, embracing challenges, and celebrating effort as much as success.
  3. Embrace Challenges as Learning Opportunities (Duckworth, Quinn, & Seligman, 2009): To build grit, one must learn to view challenges as essential steps in the learning process. Instead of avoiding difficulties, actively seek out challenges that push you out of your comfort zone. This can be as simple as taking on a new project at work, learning a new language, or trying a new sport. The key is to persist in the face of difficulty, using each challenge as a stepping stone to mastery.
  4. Cultivate Interests that Drive Passion (Duckworth, 2016): Passion is a core component of grit. Explore different activities and subjects to find what truly engages and excites you. Once you find your passion, dedicate time and energy to delve deeper. This could involve joining clubs, attending workshops, or simply dedicating time each day to practice and improvement.
  5. Practice Deliberate Perseverance (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Römer, 1993): Deliberate practice is key to developing grit. It involves focused, goal-oriented practice with the intention of improving performance. This means setting specific goals for each practice session, seeking feedback, and continuously pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.

What’s in It for You? How embracing grit can change your life

Embracing the concept of grit and applying these strategies in your life can lead to significant changes. You’ll find yourself more resilient in the face of adversity, more focused on your goals, and more fulfilled in your personal and professional endeavours.

Grit can help you:

  • Overcome obstacles and setbacks with resilience.
  • Stay committed to your goals, even when the going gets tough.
  • Achieve higher levels of success in your career and personal life.
  • Enjoy a more satisfying and meaningful life journey.

In essence, developing grit is not just about achieving goals; it’s about transforming the way you approach life, making you more resilient, determined, and ultimately, more successful in all your endeavours.

Grit and coaching with Dr Sophie

In my coaching practice, I adopt a personalized approach that aligns with these strategies to cultivate grit. By understanding each client’s unique story and goals, I guide them through a journey of self-discovery and growth. My method involves:

  • Goal Setting and Planning: Together, we’ll define clear, achievable goals and create a step-by-step plan to reach them.
  • Mindset Coaching: I’ll help you develop a growth mindset, transforming challenges into opportunities for growth.
  • Personalized Challenges: Tailored exercises and challenges designed to push you beyond your limits, fostering resilience and perseverance.
  • Passion Exploration: Guided sessions to help you discover and nurture your passions.
  • Feedback and Adjustment: Regular feedback to refine your approach and ensure continuous growth.

Working with me means embarking on a transformative journey where grit becomes your ally in achieving personal and professional success.

Sincerely yours,

Dr Sophie



  1. Duckworth, A. L., & Gross, J. J. (2014). Self-control and grit: Related but separable determinants of success. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(5), 319-325.
  2. Duckworth, A. L., Kirby, T. A., Tsukayama, E., Berstein, H., & Ericsson, K. A. (2011). Deliberate practice spells success: Why grittier competitors triumph at the National Spelling Bee. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2(2), 174-181.
  3. Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087-1101.
  4. Duckworth, A. L., Quinn, P. D., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2009). Positive predictors of teacher effectiveness. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(6), 540-547.
  5. Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.
  6. Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R. T., & Tesch-Römer, C. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review, 100(3), 363.
  7. Eskreis-Winkler, L., Duckworth, A. L., Shulman, E. P., & Beal, S. A. (2014). The grit effect: Predicting retention in the military, the workplace, school and marriage. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 36.
  8. Mischel, W. (1972). Cognitive and attentional mechanisms in delay of gratification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 21(2), 204-218.
  9. Robertson-Kraft, C., & Duckworth, A. L. (2014). True grit: Trait-level perseverance and passion for long-term goals predicts effectiveness and retention among novice teachers. Teachers College Record, 116(3), 1-27.