The Value of Grit


The Value of Grit

There is a lot of talk around resilience these days, and as important a trait as it is, and as fantastic as it is to be having conversations around it -especially in the mental health arena, I personally much prefer the word ‘Grit’. Grit and Resilience are kind of one in the same, except grit for me has a much more scrappy and raw vibe, which better reflects what it means to have such a tenacious quality. Grit is, according to the dictionary, ‘courage and resolve, strength of character’. Grit is Resilience’s unglamorous, feisty over-all wearing little sister. Grit has guts.

Grit is about mixing zeal with a bucket load of persistence. It about learning to deal with failure, learning from setbacks and not giving up, because there is no such thing as an overnight success. We just don’t always see the hard yards before the win. J.K Rowling faced twelve rejections before a publisher accepted her first Harry Potter book. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for ‘lacking imagination’ and was rejected 302 times before he was granted financing for Disneyland. Stephen Spielberg was rejected three times for film and theatre school. What made these legends so successful was not talent alone: but persistence and unwavering dedication: Grit. According to scientist Angela Duckworth, talent is not enough to succeed, Grit is essential. This explains why talent does not guarantee success: some people who have a high IQ or are hyper-talented in their particular field do not necessarily become successful, if they lack the tenacity to chase after their goals. Duckworth says “To be gritty is to invest day after week after year, in challenging practice. To be gritty is to fall down seven times and rise eight”. Duckworth created a formula to explain the importance of grit over pure talent alone that looks like this:

Talent x Effort = Skill

Skill x Effort = Achievement

Effort is more important than talent and skill in pursuit of goals. Grit can be applied as a useful trait for everyday life too, not just in a relentless chase for whatever success looks like to you: it’s about enduring a discomfort in an emotional sense in order to work through whatever particular mental challenges we face, or to deal with tricky and messy life situations that often feel like an endurance test. It’s about understanding that life will have turbulence, and we need to hunker down, put on our metaphorical seatbelts and fly with the storm as best we can.

If a lot of grit is effort and tenacity, it is also how we choose to deal with failure: If we take it personally and choose to dwell in the negative emotion that accompanies failure rather than looking at from an analytical stance, it can easily become a stumbling block in our path to happiness and success. However, if we take a step back and realise that failure is just another rung on the ladder to achieving our goals -knowing that we can learn just as much from our failures as successes – we can start to use failure as a valuable tool and turn it into positive action.

As J.K Rowling says, “Anything is possible, if you have enough nerve”.

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© 2016 Claire Inkson. All photographs copyright Claire Inkson

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