Developing the Grit to Thrive

In the 1970s, researchers like Suzanne Kobasa and Sal Maddi looked at how people in demanding and high-stress executive positions coped with their jobs. According to their data, over 90% of executives developed physical or psychological problems by year five. Many gained excess weight or succumbed to drug or alcohol addiction. Others suffered from anxiety and depression. Overall, it was not a very encouraging picture.

But there was a silver lining to Kobasa and Maddi’s research. They discovered a commonality among the 5% of people who thrived long-term in those demanding positions. And that commonality was grit.

The Secret to Thriving Amidst Stress & Pressure

The battlefield is one of the most high-pressure environments known to man. When you’re facing gunfire or IEDs, you’re not just risking a poor performance report or losing a job. Your life is on the line.

That’s the reason Dr. Paul Bartone, a researcher at West Point, decided to look into how grit might help a soldier succeed, even under the most demanding pressures. He found that higher levels of grit resulted in an ability to deal with combat-related stress without negative psychological affects like PTSD or depression. But that wasn’t all. He also discovered that grit improved performance, leadership, stamina, mood, conduct, and overall health.

If grit can help soldiers who face constant life-or-death situations, how might it help normal people like us? More recent studies have revealed that cultivating grit can benefit everyone, from children in elementary school to high-level executives at the largest corporations in the world.

But if we’re going to develop the grit we need to thrive, we first need to understand what it comprises so we can put together a plan to target those areas. That’s what we’ll look at now…

The Three Cs of Hardiness

The first aspect of grit that we need to examine is hardiness. People with hardy personalities are able to face setbacks and obstacles without despairing. But what makes them different from other people?

Commitment to a Larger Vision

Hardiness requires a commitment to a larger vision of life. Rather than myopically focusing on individual words, events, and people, they seek a broad perspective. This broad perspective helps them discover the purpose and meaning they need to thrive even under adversity. It also helps them stay engaged during moments when life seems to go awry.


Hardy people don’t view stress negatively. Instead, they see it as a challenge meant to be overcome. Because they look at their problems in a more positive light, they’re able to face them and deal with them more effectively. A willingness to face challenges head-on is one of the surest predictors of success.

Control Perception

When adversity rears its head, we can face it in one of two ways. We can get discouraged, blame our problems, and sulk until an opportunity presents itself. Or, we can retain control of our life and go out in pursuit of our next prospect. Hardy people take the latter course and are more likely to persevere because of it. Even when things seem to be out of control, hardy people remember that they still have the ability to choose how they will react. This sense of control goes a long way toward helping them persevere under stressful situations.

The Four Factors of Resilience

In addition to hardiness, grit requires a measure of resilience. Hardiness and resilience are closely related, but there are some important differences. The important thing to remember is that when a person develops their hardiness and resilience together, they’ll have the grit they needs to thrive in even the most stressful circumstances.

So, what makes a person resilient? A 30-year study conducted in Kauai, Hawaii on the subject found that there were four factors that most contributed to a person’s resiliency…

Resilient Personality Traits

One of the first things that made a person resilient was personality traits that lent themselves to resiliency. This included things like optimism, open-mindedness, creativity, loving, and self-disciplined. Obviously, some people are more naturally gifted with these things than others. But there are practices we can use to cultivate these personality traits even if we have struggled with them in the past.

Strong Family Bonds

Another factor in resilience is a set of strong family bonds. When people feel supported by those closest to them, they’re able to endure more difficult circumstances. After all, they know that when they get home at the end of the day, they’ll have people waiting who love and care for them. While we can’t always choose our families, we can take certain actions to make strong family bonds a higher likelihood. And if we want to become more resilient, that’s exactly what we should do.

Community Support

Resilient people don’t just need deep relationships at home, they need strong connections within their local communities as well. This is why community support is one of the key factors in developing resiliency. The dangers of community disconnection are especially evident in refugee populations that have lost all of the community ties that once offered stability. These communities can be left with trauma for generations.

A Central Guiding Purpose

Like hardiness, resilience requires a commitment to a larger vision of life. With this central guiding purpose, people will be able to persevere even when individual events threaten to tear them down.

Can a Coach Help You Develop Grit?

When someone cultivates hardiness and resilience as we’ve discussed here, grit is an inevitability. They’ll be more likely to thrive in high-pressure situations. They’ll be less susceptible to negative physical and psychological consequences. And they’ll be more likely to achieve their goals and find lasting contentment.

But what’s the best way to develop grit? You could scour the internet and your local library for the various practices needed to strengthen yourself in the areas mentioned above. But that can leave you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. If you don’t already have a measure of grit, you’ll likely give up before you arrive. That’s why a coach can make all the difference in developing grit.

With a coach, you’ll have someone by your side who already has the knowledge, skills, and practices needed to help you develop hardiness and resiliency. So, if you’re ready to begin thriving under pressure, don’t wait for the perfect time to start cultivating grit. Begin today and move your life forward. Need coaching? Contact me today about my special coaching packages.