4 Ways to Build Grit When You Need It Most

UPDATED: May 22, 2024
PUBLISHED: October 24, 2019
build grit

Are you a “goal-getter”—someone driven by achievement who puts your best food forward to ensure things get done? If so, you’re probably pretty familiar with the work ethic required to be successful.

But what if you find yourself struggling to grasp the basic motivation, joy or belief in yourself to move forward? What do you do when times get tough and personal difficulty hinders your desire to achieve?

Related: 11 Powerful Mantras for Those Who’ve Lost Motivation

Money, time and other precious resources pale in comparison to the wildcard we know and love called grit. Psychologist Angela Duckworth, an expert on grit, refers to it as the ability to thrive during adversity. She notes that having it is a greater predictor of success than cognitive or technical skill sets.

Know this: Your internal drive to dig deep and overcome challenges will prove your biggest asset in times of uncertainty. Grit builds resilience—especially when you are at the end of your rope and need a reason to keep going.

Got grit? If not, here’s how to build and improve it when you need it most:

1. Focus on your ‘why.’

It’s true, your desire to do something may fluctuate from time to time. You’re human, after all. You will get tired. Your immediate priorities may shift. You may even question the necessity of doing a thing at all. But, to get passed the subterfuge, you must hone in on your “why”— you know, that earth-shattering reason you made this thing a “must” to begin with? When your why is compelling, the excuses fall away. You are then able to summon grit to help you get over the “plateau of arrested development.”

2. Be your own best barometer.

Others are certainly entitled to their opinions—but this doesn’t mean you should make them yours. Embracing the unsolicited feedback of others can make it difficult to submit to your calling. Remember, this is your goal and there is a reason why you chose to achieve it. Learn to trust the wisdom of your gut. Be clear that you are working toward your own best interests and that you have performed (or will perform!) the necessary due diligence to ensure your success. Positioning yourself as your primary counsel can give you the clarity and confidence needed to move forward, especially when you find the genuine support of others to be wanting.

3. Find a quintessential reference point.

Is this the first time you’ve had to move nimbly through the trenches? Probably not. Think about a time when the odds weren’t in your favor—when you didn’t feel like things were going to work out—but they did. What was it about that situation that was different? What did you do differently? What wisdom can you glean from it and apply to the current scenario? Chances are you can haul an entire truckload of insights into your current circumstance and achieve a much-needed breakthrough. What’s more, you’ll inevitably increase your points of reference by fighting through the trenches time and time again.

4. Decide to do the work in chunks.

Nothing of value is ever created overnight. Think diamonds, medical or technological innovations—even human life. Excellence takes time. The point here is to embrace the imminent heavy lifting. Rather than capitulate, roll up your sleeves and get your mind steadied to do the work, no matter how difficult or time-consuming it may be. Instead of trying to force-feed yourself each task, break them into bite-sized pieces called “chunks.” Address them individually and delegate where necessary. You’ll find each task more approachable when compartmentalized, which is exactly the point.

When things get tough, the tough don’t get going. They instead plant their feet on solid ground and prepare for the bout by reaching for grit—an extraordinary ally, especially in times of adversity.

Related: 4 Stages for Building Grit in Your Children

Photo by Parilov / Shutterstock

A leading authority on leadership development and organizational performance management, Karima Mariama-Arthur brings more than 25 years of comprehensive, blue chip experience in law, business and academia to every client engagement. A shrewd advisor to distinguished organizations from DC to Dubai, her expert insights help clients to successfully navigate today's ever-changing and competitive global business environment. Karima is the author of the internationally acclaimed and 2019 NAACP Image Award nominated leadership guidebook, Poised For Excellence: Fundamental Principles of Effective Leadership in the Boardroom and Beyond (Palgrave Macmillan), which launched at the United States Military Academy at West Point. As an extension of her work, she speaks regularly both nationally and internationally in her areas of expertise and serves in an advisory capacity on select corporate boards.