Committee for Children Blog

A Look at Grit


Humans are creatures of habit. If you quit when things get tough, it gets that much easier to quit the next time. On the other hand, if you force yourself to push through it, the grit begins to grow in you. —Travis Bradberry

It happens time and time again, often without notice. Successful people spend years overcoming challenges and difficulties before they reach their biggest accomplishments.

Ben Franklin dropped out of school at age 10. Thomas Edison was fired from his job and made hundreds of doomed attempts before inventing the lightbulb. Jay Z reported facing many adversities and rejections from record labels before creating his own record label. Bill Gates was unsuccessful at his first business. Franklin Roosevelt became partially paralyzed in his 30s, before becoming president. J.K. Rowling and Stephen King were rejected multiple times before being accepted for publication.

Why do some people accomplish more than others? What is it about those who excel in the face of difficult moments? How does someone persevere in spite of obstacles or challenges, or when things do not go as planned? There is no single magic formula that determines success for all, but one way to better begin to answer these questions is to understand “grit.”

“Why grit?” you may ask. For starters, it has shown to be a predictor of attainment, such as higher earned grade point averages, a greater likelihood of high school graduation, and higher levels of education (Duckworth, 2006). Also, research on grit suggests that excelling in school and life is not solely dependent on talent, skill, IQ, or the ability to learn quickly and easily, but also on effort, motivation, and follow-through on commitments. Furthermore, grit does not seem to be biased, class-based, or gender-based. We could all have grit.

Grit is tenacity. It is having the disposition to achieve long-term goals with passion and determination, despite difficulties, opposition, or failure. It involves having the self-control for following through and enduring, sustaining, and focusing effort toward meeting those goals over long periods of time. Grit is not giving up, but rather embracing mistakes and seeing them as opportunities to learn and master something.

Are you interested in learning more about what grit looks like? Are you curious to know how much grit you have? Do you want to know whether your students see themselves as having grit? Would you like to increase awareness about grit as a first step to fostering it? If you said “yes” to any of these questions, try this Grit Scale quiz. Also check out Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk on grit and this podcast of NPR’s This American Life, where Paul Tough is interviewed about his book, How Children Succeed.

To find out more about how you can cultivate grit through social-emotional learning, be sure to read my next blog post.

The following are a few key resources used in this post:
Duckworth, A. L. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Duckworth, A. L. (2006). Intelligence is not enough: Non-IQ predictors of achievement. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania.
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.
Duckworth, A. L., & Quinn, P. D. (2009). Development and validation of the short grit scale (Grit-S). Journal of Personality Assessment, 91(2), 166–174.