What Is Resilience and Grit?
Do you remember reading the folktale of “The Little Engine That Could”? Despite its small size, the little engine pulls the train up the tall mountain, to the other side, to deliver toys to the children. All along the way, the engine is chanting, “I think I can, I think I can.” Well, that little engine had some grit.
By now, you probably have heard the words “resilience” and “grit” used by your teachers, coaches, or counselors, but have they ever been explained to you? Resilience and grit are frequently used interchangeably, but they are actually different. Resiliency is about how you bounce back or recharge after facing adversity. In comparison, grit is one’s ability to persist toward a goal, even when challenges arise along the way. Therefore, being resilient is a characteristic of having grit.
Why Is Building Resilience and Grit Important?
You may feel that resilience and grit are just buzzwords created by an older generation. While grit may feel like a buzzword, there is scientific research that proves how beneficial it is to be “gritty.”
Physical & Emotional Wellbeing
Grit has been shown to affect college students’ physical and emotional well-being. Students with higher grit levels also had an increased physical well-being (Sharkey et al., 2018). On the mental health side, grittier college students were more likely to possess increased mental well-being, life satisfaction, feelings of worth, and even lower stress levels (Kannangara et al., 2018).
Success in college is a combination of earning good marks and persisting in your goal to graduate. So, it makes sense that there are elements of resilience and grit involved. Moreover, studies have shown that both resilience and grit are associated with the long-term academic success of college students (Yaure et al., 2020).
There is a lot more to self-control than just showing restraint. Self-control is about time-management skills, prioritizing tasks or assignments, and self-awareness. Students who had higher grit scores also demonstrated higher levels of self-control (Kannangara et al., 2018).
How to Build Resilience & Grit
Now that you know how resilience and grit can help you, how do you develop these qualities? Grit isn’t a trait whereby people either have it or don’t. Everyone can develop and build resilience and grit at any point in their lives. According to Angela Ducksworth (2016), there are four psychological assets to build more grit.
Passion is a vital element of a gritty person. When you intrinsically love what you are studying, practicing, or working toward, you can persevere more easily through the challenges that you face along the way. Your interest could be your major, your desired career after college, or even a hobby.
Practice makes perfect, or at least better, right? Practice requires discipline and self-control to improve ourselves or our craft, day in and day out. This means identifying our weaknesses, which isn’t always easy, and doing our best to work actively on strengthening them, no matter how difficult it may seem. Our practice is never over, and we continually have opportunities to improve and grow.
Purpose is the driving force behind your passion. Why does your interest or passion matter? It is essential to find intrinsic reasons and also to connect your purpose to how it affects others. Purpose doesn’t often emerge until after identifying your interest and years of practice. So, don’t worry if you haven’t quite figured out the “why” behind your passion just yet.
Failure is a part of life, but how we respond to failure is so important to developing our grit and resilience. Hope is not the last piece of the puzzle, instead it is active in each stage. Such a critical part of developing grit is persevering in the face of adversity. Grit prevails when we get back up after being knocked down. So next time you come face to face with a hardship, encourage yourself to get back up, dust yourself off, and keep moving forward. However, this does not mean you can’t take time to recharge and recover before trudging onward.
Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. Scribner.
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. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.117
Kannangara, C. S., Allen, R. E., Waugh, G., Nahar, N., Khan, S. Z. N., Rogerson, S., & Carson, J. (2018). All that glitters is not grit: Three studies of grit in university students. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1539. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01539
Sharkey, C. M., Bakula, D. M., Gamwell, K. L., Mullins, A. J., Chaney, J. M., & Mullins, L. L. (2017). The role of grit in college student health care management skills and health-related quality of life. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 42(9), 952-961. https://doi.org/10.1093/jpepsy/jsx073
Yaure, R. G., Murowchick, E., Schwab, J. E., & Jacobson-McConnell, L. (2020). How grit and resilience predict successful academic performance. Journal of Access, Retention, and Inclusion in Higher Education, 3(1), 6. https://digitalcommons.wcupa.edu/jarihe/vol3/iss1/6