By Bryan Orr

In the movie “True Grit” (the old one with John Wayne not the new one with Jeff Bridges; the new one is awful), the young girl, Mattie Ross, goes out looking for someone with “grit” to help her avenge the death of her father. Mattie’s character was focused on a single goal and NOBODY was going to deter her from that mission. As you watch the movie it is clear that Mattie is the one with the “True Grit” as she does what it takes to achieve her goal.

What does that have to do with business you may ask? Be patient, we are getting there.

A few years ago I heard a Ted Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania. In her talk, Duckworth presents her findings from her research in childhood education and the factors that lead to success and failure. Of all the indicators, the one that showed up most often was the ability to set long term goals and stick with those goals regardless of setbacks, difficulty and failure. Duckworth used the term “grit” to describe this trait, and since her initial findings were published, the data has been tested over and over, not only in children but in adults as well.

The findings?

Grit matters.

How can you tell if you’re gritty?

  • How do you deal with disappointment? When you imagined things would go one way and instead they go the other.
  • How do you react when you make your plans and they don’t work out?

If you tend to give up or get excessively stressed, it can be an indication that you lack grit.

  • If you are the kind of person who doesn’t make long term plans and tend to be seen more as an easy going or  “whatever happens, happens” kind of person you probably wouldn’t be considered “gritty” either.

I am more the kind of person who makes long term plans, but when things go wrong I tend to want to quit and move on to the next thing.

Truly gritty people not only come up with plans, they stick to them even when the heat is on.

Here are a few habits to help build grit.

Make Plans for the Future

One simple way to do this is to create a Life Board: Take a piece of poster board and glue photos from magazines, newspapers and off  the Internet of places you want to go, things you want to accomplish, and words that carry meaning to you. Put the board up in a place where you will see it regularly so your goals will always stay in front of you.

Use Emotion as a Sign Post

When you feel the pain of failure, the overwhelm of disappointment, or the pressure of the expectations of others; remember to keep grit at the forefront of your mind. Gritty people get upset just like everyone else, but they don’t let negative emotions stand between them and their goals.

Create Some Accountability

Who do you have in your life who can and will tell you when you are being a whiner? If your goal is to build grit you need to surround yourself with people who will tell you the unpleasant truth about how you are behaving and who will also call you down from the edge when you are ready to give up on your goals.  

Being gritty isn’t always pretty (forgive the rhyme), but it has been scientifically proven to lead to better results.