That old cliché “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” is a testament to the nature of grit. Grit is a result and a resource for pushing through difficult times. Grit is fostered by working through setbacks and coming out victorious on the other side. It’s also something to call on the next time the going gets tough.
There was once a group of warriors who needed to claim land in order to expand the resources for their tribe. It was vital that every man knew that failure was not an option. The leaders devised a plan to increase the chance that the attack on the new land wouldn’t fail. When the men approached the shoreline in their boats and hit the sand, the leaders set the boats on fire. It was impossible to flee or retreat. The warriors were forced into a situation of “win or die trying.” This is where the phrase “burning the boats” originated.
In reality, failure is always an option. There’s no guarantee you will win, achieve your goal, or succeed. The only thing you can control is whether you give up. Grit makes it possible to “never, ever give up,” as Winston Churchill once said. Grit digs deep and finds the emotional ability to do the next task in front of you over and over until you succeed, or realize that no matter what, you’re not going to win.
Our minds are designed to protect you from pain. Physical—and emotional—pain is a signal to the brain to put the brakes on what you’re doing. In the times of the caveman, it was the part of the brain that saved early man from being eaten by larger and faster animals. The fight or flight reflex is meant to keep us safe. Grit is the override for playing things safe. It’s the tool that comes out of the chest when we need to hammer at that part of us that wants to crawl back in bed and snuggle under the covers.
Let’s look at why it’s important to never give up:
- Your breakthrough may be a moment away.
- Your sacrifice may make a difference for generations to come.
- You may be the first in your family to break free from this bondage.
- Your children are counting on you.
- You may develop the cure the world has needed.
- You might experience a level of success you never dreamed of.
I want you to develop a mindset that is open to learning, adapting, and discovering new tactics to solve the big problems. Talk to a mentor, absorb wisdom from those who came before you, and apply that wisdom to your situation. Keep your eyes and mind open and read for breakthroughs.
Three Great Examples of People with Lots of Grit
Everyone loves an inspirational store that resonates with the hero’s journey. A hero’s journey puts the main character in a tough position where they must come to terms with a choice to make a commitment to overcome obstacles. Think Harry Potter, Jack Reacher, or literally any Disney movie.
Other inspirational stories can come from a person who figured out a way to do something bigger or better—on purpose or accidentally. Corn Flakes cereal was an accidental development by John Harvey Kellogg in 1894 when he was attempting to find a food source for people in a sanitarium.
Whether we call it a hero’s journey or intentional action for change, the common denominator is grit. Focus, stamina, and commitment are key to most inspirational stories.
Here are three modern-day stories to get you excited about what you can achieve when grit becomes part of your character:
Timothy Ferriss is a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur who changed the worldview about working hard. Ferriss wrote the New York Times bestselling book The Four Hour Work Week. He discusses what it takes to develop habits to work smart, not hard. He attributes his success to grit-based actions that set him apart from other entrepreneurs. By following his goal-setting and routines, he has had experiences that most can only dream of. The fact is, what he does isn’t amazingly original and it’s within most people’s reach if they have grit and put in the effort.
Nelson Mandela was an anti-Apartheid revolutionary who had undeniable grit. As a young man, he pushed against the customs and rules that oppressed everything from marriage to civil rights. During his life he was imprisoned, beaten, and overcame unimaginable laws to become the President of South Africa. His grit can’t even be measured—his ability to stay dedicated to the fight and do what needed to be done to see freedom for his country and people.
Bethany Hamilton is a professional surfer whose arm was bitten off by a shark when she was a teen. Bethany not only survived the ordeal but also went on to train and surf professionally. Today she’s a wife, mother, and inspiration to men and women. Coming back from nearly being eaten by a shark is one thing, but going through rehabilitation to once again surf competitively takes grit.
There are countless others who have faced the ultimate difficulty and fought back. You can find inspiration in autobiographies, on YouTube, and on other social media platforms. Spend time exposing yourself to some amazing stories out there and get pumped up from the inspiration. You’ll learn tricks and ideas on how to develop grit in your life.
Routines and Habits Will Help You Develop Grit
The development of grit isn’t solely based on negative experiences. You can train yourself to be gritty before having to call on this resource. Challenge yourself! Become part of a cause that requires you to dig deep and you can develop a foundation of grit.
Sports are great for cultivating grit. Not just the physical activity, but also the mental aspects of “being in the game” will help in the grit department. No matter your role, as long as it engages your mind and body that generally exceeds your typical ability.
- Join a city league team
- Learn a new sport outside of your wheelhouse
- Coach a team
- Mentor an athlete
You can also develop grit by being more organized and raising your standards. Don’t let yourself off the hook—follow through with household chores. How we do anything is how we do everything. Those who have control over their homes are generally able to control and organize any uninvited big issues.
- Do the dishes nightly
- Always fold and put away the laundry
- Manage your diet well, making good food choices
- Make your bed daily
- Mow the lawn every week
Volunteering or committing to a cause can create a grittier lifestyle. Your time is a precious resource and it takes effort and stamina to donate it. Consider participating in a cause that you truly believe in.
- Pledge income that requires you to dig deep with your finances
- Run for office or become part of the board for an organization
- Be the chairperson for a major activity or annual event
- Make a statement by doing something outrageous to draw attention to the cause you support like biking across America for heart health
If you make stretching yourself part of your lifestyle, you won’t have to wait until something unexpected happens. You can develop grit through developing habits and actions that stretch you both internally and externally.