What does it mean to have grit?

To have grit means you have courage and show the strength of your character.

When you hear someone give a compliment which states the person has grit, what does it mean? It means the person has courage and shows the strength of their character. Michigan State University Extension and 4-H Youth Development programs offer character education resources. When understanding character education and how character is built, one of the key words that should be used is grit. A person with true grit has passion and perseverance. Goals are set and followed through. A person who works really hard to follow through on commitments has true grit. It is not a word you hear very often.

When teaching youth on what a solid work ethic is, the word grit should be used. As stated above, a person with true grit follows through, works hard at their goals to achieve them and is someone who you want to have around—either in school as a friend or as a coworker. Even if you are assigned to work with someone on a project and you know that person has a strong work ethic, the project will get done.

In Margaret M. Perlis’s article, “5 Characteristics of Grit—How Many Do You Have?” she explores the five areas of grit:

  1. Courage
  2. Conscientiousness: Achievement oriented versus dependable
  3. Long-term goals and endurance: Follow through
  4. Resilience: Optimism, confidence and creativity
  5. Excellence versus perfection

Perlis states that while a key component of grit is resilience, resilience is the powering mechanism that draws your head up, moves you forward and helps you persevere despite whatever obstacles you face along the way. When she asked a group of teachers what has changed with regards to the character of kids, in unison they said “grit”—or more specifically, lack thereof. There seems to be growing concern among teachers that kids these days are growing soft.

Angela Duckworth is another source of understanding grit. She is also the founder and scientific director of the Character Lab, a nonprofit whose mission is to advance the science and practice of character development. Duckworth studies grit and self-control. In her first book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” she wrote about what goes through your head when you fall down and how that makes all the difference, not talent or luck. In her TED talk on grit, she talks about motivating her students and how they can all learn if they work hard and long.

For more information on grit, read the MSU Extension article, “Fostering grit in the youth of today.”

For more information regarding MSU Extension programs, visit the MSU Extension website.

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