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ATD Blog

You Think You’ve Got Grit? Get Grittier

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Given the last year we experienced and the continued hardships we’ve faced, what makes some of us more likely to stay on track and accomplish our personal and professional goals, especially the long-term ones? Could it be grit?

What does it mean to grow and demonstrate grit in our day-to-day lives? Can we become grittier than we think we already are?

David G. Fivecoat, managing partner of The Fivecoat Consulting Group (TFCG) knows a little something about grit. He couldn’t have served for 24 years as an infantry officer, completed three combat tours in Iraq, graduated from West Point, or completed in triathlons without it. According to David, grit can be defined as “the will to persevere to achieve long term goals.” In a recent ATD Forum webinar, he shared the components necessary for individuals and organizations to grow their grit and focus on accomplishing long-term goals. The six components needed to develop personal grit include purpose, goal, perseverance, resilience, courage, and drive.

1. Develop a Personal Purpose

Writing a purpose statement will help you lay the groundwork for growing your grit. If you already have a personal purpose statement, when was the last time you reviewed it? Is it still accurate? For a template click here.

Take a few minutes to consider your deepest held values and write down the five that resonate with you. Now take a moment to rank your top three values in order of most important from your list of five. Write a sentence about each one then combine the sentences into one statement that includes all the values. For example, if I chose kindness, respect, and relationships as my top three values, my purpose statement might end up looking like this: I look for opportunities to help others connect, collaborate, and learn from one another in a safe and respectful environment to promote more kindness in the world.

Click here for more on personal purpose.

2. Make Your Goals Grittier

Even if you set goals for yourself, make sure they contain all five components of the common S.M.A.R.T. mnemonic device (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound). Spend time breaking down your goal into steps and put time on your calendar to accomplish those steps. Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate and redefine your goals. In fact, it is good practice to regularly review them.

Click here for more on developing grittier goals.


3. Grittify Your Perseverance

Perseverance is about repetition and habit. The best thing about grit is that it is transferable. Think about your past experiences and how those things are supporting you in your current goals. For example, maybe you’ve persevered by completing grad school or a recent certification, or perhaps you’ve saved money or balanced the funds in your bank account. It could even be something as simple as starting each day by taking a morning walk. These actions enable you to feel accomplished and continue pursuing your purpose and goals. Remember to celebrate small wins. Consistency is key. Committing to getting just 1 percent better every day at something can help you build momentum as you grow your grit.

Click here for more on perseverance.

4. Grittify Your Resilience

A car won’t get you anywhere without the proper energy source. Similarly, you can’t efficiently work toward accomplishing your goals if you aren’t taking care of yourself. David identified five key physiological aspects to improving resiliency and growing grit: sleep, nutrition, mindfulness, physical fitness, and social interaction. These aspects are necessary for our resilience. Are you creating the right environment for yourself to get adequate sleep? Studies have shown that a dark room without lights and avoiding screen time 30-minutes before going to bed is ideal. Avoid caffeine after the early afternoon hours. Are you really aware of what you are putting in your body each day? Keep a food log for a week and be deliberate about what you purchase from the grocery store, focusing on the perimeter. Try not to shop when you’re hungry so you avoid purchasing junk food. Maybe you don’t think you have time for an hour of mind and body exercise each day, but what about 20 minutes or even just 10 minutes? Sometimes making time for social connections falls low on our list of priorities. Taking a moment to send someone a note to let them know you are thinking of them or spending five minutes checking in on the phone or via video conferencing can be enough to boost your resilience.

Click here for more on resilience.


5. Grittify Your Courage

Fear of failure is a common obstacle to accomplishing one’s goals. You can grittify your courage by managing your fear of failure. To do this, reframe your definition of success and failure. Have you ever actually listed your fears related to accomplishing a goal? What is the worst that could happen? Listing your fears can help you think of ways to reduce risk associated with each fear and still work toward a goal. Focusing on what you are learning as you work toward your goal will also help you grow your grit.

Click here for more on courage.

6. Grittify Your Drive

It is important to understand and acknowledge the internal and external sources of what drives you—in other words, what fuels your grit. Some goals may be easier than others to focus on because we have a higher internal drive to accomplish them. David recommends writing down your goals and putting them where they are visible to increase personal accountability and energize your drive.

It is equally important to come up with external sources to help grittify your drive so that others can help hold you accountable. This could be joining a group of other people with grit in support of a common goal. For example, it could be a study group, a book club, or a group of people training for a marathon or who practice a new hobby.

You could also consider hiring a teacher, coach, or mentor. Who do you know that demonstrates grit? Surround yourself with others that demonstrate grit and consider mentoring someone else to help them grow theirs. Connecting, sharing, and helping others is a great way to grittify your internal and external drive.

Click here for more on drive.

In his book, Grow Your Grit: Accomplish Obstacles, Thrive, and Accomplish Your Goals, David states “From the battlefield to the boardroom to the ballet studio, leaders are leveraging their grit to achieve the improbable.” Building personal grit takes disciplined intention and time. It is a choice each of us has. It is not easy; however, small step by small step, it works. Paying attention to each of the six components—purpose, goal, perseverance, resilience, courage, and drive—and gratifying each of them, is a sure way to go in the gritty direction. For a checklist to help you get started on growing your grit, click here.

About the Author

Mariam Hutchinson is an independent leadership development consultant and coach with a passion for developing leaders of all ages and stages in their careers using a strengths-based approach. Previous roles include serving in various management and leadership positions on Learning and Development teams for Booz Allen Hamilton and Maximus. In addition, Mariam has a combined total of 20 years of experience in program management and training roles for the financial services, non-profit, and higher education industries.

Mariam holds an M.S. in Organization Development and Knowledge Management from George Mason University and has facilitated numerous leadership and team development programs using tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DiSC, Insights Discovery, and CliftonStrengths. She also holds certificates in Leadership Studies, Instructional Design, Coaching, and is a Silver Level Certified Kirkpatrick Professional and has presented at industry conferences hosted by ATD and The Conference Board.

She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two boys, ages 10 and 8. Mariam is currently focused on getting her kids through the remainder of their 100% distance learning school year. In addition to independent consulting and coaching, Mariam will be participating in a cohort-based program in the fall focused on leadership coaching for organizational well-being and serving as a volunteer for L&D Cares.

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