The 4 Characteristics of Grit & What They Mean

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Grit" by Angela Duckworth. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are the characteristics of grit? How can you learn to have more grit?

There are four defining characteristics of grit: interest, practice, purpose, and hope. You can work on improving these characteristics to have more grit.

Keep reading to find out the characteristics of grit and how you can have more of it.

Characteristics of Grit

If you’re not as gritty as you want to be, ask yourself why. Common reasons people lack either passion or perseverance include the following complaints:

  • What I’m doing is boring.
  • I’m not getting anything from my effort.
  • What I’m doing isn’t important.
  • I’m not capable of doing this, so I should give it. 

In contrast, the very gritty tend to give up for the above reasons less. There are four psychological assets that paragons of grit have in common:

  • Interest: enjoy what you’re doing
  • Practice: conduct deliberate practice to improve on your weaknesses and continuously improve
  • Purpose: believe that your work matters and improves the lives of others
  • Hope: believe in your capacity for achievement and ability to overcome difficulties 

Each asset directly addresses the corresponding complaints above it.

Here are the four characteristics of grit.

Interest

The first concept in knowing how to have grit is interest. Being interested by your pursuit is the beginning of developing grit. Paragons of grit say, “I love what I do. I can’t wait to get on with the next project.” They’re doing things not because they’re forced to.

Grit cannot truly exist without interest. People who are not intrinsically interested in an activity will not work as hard or achieve as much as people who are. 

Practice

The next obstacle to developing grit is the feeling that you’re not making any progress. Even if you’re interested in a task, if you put in a lot of time and don’t feel you’re getting reward, it’s hard to keep persevering.

The way to guarantee progress with your time is to conduct deliberate practice. This is a structured, disciplined way to put in time and get results.

Purpose

If you have interest in your work and conduct deliberate practice, you’ll make progress. But ultimately, if you don’t believe your work matters and contributes things of value, you will find it difficult to maintain your work for a long time.

This leads to the third component of grit: purpose. Purpose, as defined here, is “the intention to contribute to the well-being of others.”

Hope

Grit depends on hope that you have the power to improve things. Hope sustains passion by giving optimism that one day you can achieve your goals, and thus they’re worth holding for long periods of time. Hope sustains perseverance by encouraging thinking about how to overcome setbacks, rather than just accepting them as permanent.

With these characteristics, you can learn how to have grit.

The 4 Characteristics of Grit & What They Mean

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Angela Duckworth's "Grit" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Grit summary:

  • How your grit can predict your success
  • The 4 components that make up grit
  • Why focusing on talent means you overlook true potential

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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