Key Takeaways

  1. Grit refers to “passion and perseverance for long-term goals,” and it’s a key predictor of success in many domains such as business, sports, and fitness.
  2. Research also shows that grittier people are much better at maintaining and losing weight, sticking to their diets, and managing their health than less gritty people.
  3. Luckily, it is possible to get more gritty. Keep reading to learn what science says are the four best ways to improve your grit levels to get in shape.

When you look at a celebrity on T.V., a rising star in the office, or an impressively fit person at the gym, it’s easy to attribute their success to in-born talent, circumstance, and luck.

This is especially true when it comes to fitness, because your results are inextricably tied to your genetics. 

That is, you can work just as hard as someone else or even harder, and they still might get better results in the end.

And once you realize this, it becomes very easy to rationalize your lack of progress.

That person is stronger than you? Must be nice to have so much time to work out.

That person is more muscular than you? Must be nice to have won the genetic lottery.

That person is leaner than you? If only you had their metabolism.

This kind of fixed mindset is comforting, but it’s also pernicious. It erodes your self confidence, saps your motivation, and poisons your perception of what you can achieve. 

And it overlooks something even more important than genetics, upbringing, and luck for achieving your goals: 


Research shows that grit, sand, pluck, spunk, moxie, or whatever else you want to call it, is a much better predictor of your success in almost any endeavor than genetics or luck.

As you’ll learn in this article, grit is one of the most important common denominators among all high-achievers, whether in the realms of fitness, sports, business, or the arts. 

So, keep reading if you want to learn . . . 

  • What grit is
  • How your grittiness affects your ability to get in shape
  • The four most effective ways to get more gritty
  • And more . . .


What Is Grit? 

Researchers define grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.”

Now, you may be wondering how grit differs from concepts like work ethic, consciousness, or tenacity, and in truth there’s a lot of overlap between all of these qualities. 

What makes the term “grit” unique, though, is it describes the quality of consistently working at a big, hairy, audacious goal no matter what obstacles you encounter. People with grit climb over, dig under, and smash through whatever is in their way to get at what they’re after, and are willing to forgo any number of immediate pleasures in pursuit of the bigger prize. 

Gritty people are willing to endure the slings and arrows of defeat and failure and the inevitable doldrums of despair and boredom—for years if necessary—without losing their resolve.   

Most of us know this inherently, and if you read anything about history, you’ll quickly recognize that almost every highly successful person who’s ever lived has possessed tremendous grit. 

Whether you look at the military campaigns of Caesar and Alexander, the business exploits of John D. Rockefeller and Ray Dalio, or the statecraft of Benjamin Franklin and Marcus Aurelius, you’ll see grit was a vital ingredient to their success.

And now, this historical evidence is being vindicated by scientific research. Countless studies over the past few decades have proven that grit is one of the best predictors of success in a wide range of domains. This is true for spelling bee champions, cadets going through basic training, and people trying to lose weight.

If you’ve read anything about weight loss, muscle building, or fitness, this probably isn’t a surprise to you. 

You know that to lose weight, you have to stick to your diet for weeks before you see any signs of progress, and months before you accomplish your goal. 

You know that to build muscle, you have to diligently stick to your program and push yourself harder and harder for months on end. 

And you know that to stay healthy and vibrant for the long haul, you have to keep up all of these behaviors for the rest of your life.

That said, many of us still struggle at times to stay the course, to stick to our goals no matter what the obstacles. If you feel that way sometimes, you want to keep reading. 

Summary: “Grit” describes a passion and perseverance for long-term goals and a willingness to endure discomfort, disappointment, and resistance for months or years to achieve final victory. Grit is highly correlated with success across many domains. 

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Why Grit Will Help You Get Fit

why is grit important

If you look around online for information about grit, most of what you’ll find is focused on success in business, productivity, and career advancement.

Interestingly, though, quite a bit of research shows grit is just as essential to success in fitness as it is in other domains. 

A good example of this comes from a study conducted by scientists at Chicago State University, where the researchers looked at the relationship between grit and exercise habits.

The researchers had 1,171 people complete a survey that assessed their grit, conscientiousness (the tendency to be goal-oriented and organized), and how intensely they exercised.

The results? 

Conscientiousness didn’t predict how much or how hard people worked out. That is, people who scored relatively high on this personality trait weren’t more #dedicated to their training than people who scored fairly low. 

The people who scored the highest in terms of grit, though, were 30% more likely to train the hardest (versus reports of moderate or low intensity exercise) and generally worked out more often than people who scored the lowest in terms of grit.

As you might expect, research also shows grittiness helps you lose weight more effectively. 

For example, in a study conducted by scientists at the University of Illinois, the researchers had 79 women complete a survey that measured their grittiness and recorded their weight and BMI. Then, the women enrolled in a one-year long weight gain prevention study. 

That is, they weren’t necessarily trying to lose weight, but were mainly trying not to gain any weight (which is still a big accomplishment for many people, and often a first step before weight loss). 

As part of the weight gain prevention program, the participants met with a registered dietitian or counselor about twice a month throughout the study. In these meetings, they learned about the fundamentals of proper dieting such as managing energy balance and macronutrient intake, staying active and motivated, getting enough sleep, minimizing stress, and so forth.

At the end of the study, the researchers again measured their weight and BMI and had everyone complete a survey measuring their grittiness. 

Once again, the researchers found that the women who had the highest levels of grit at the beginning of the study were the most successful at keeping the weight off, and many even lost weight.

Finally, research also shows that grittier people are just plain happier and healthier than less gritty people.

This was demonstrated in an online survey study conducted by scientists at Oklahoma State University, where 470 students completed a questionnaire that assessed their grittiness and health-related quality of life and health care management skills. 

That is, the test assessed their physical fitness, emotional health, energy and fatigue levels, social functioning, and general health (how often they got sick, etc.)—basically a complete look at their overall physical health. The questionnaire also looked at their health-related “adulting” skills, such as their ability to properly take medications, make and keep healthcare appointments, track their health, communicate with doctors, and so forth.

As you can imagine, the people who had the most grit scored the highest in terms of quality of life (which includes both physical and mental health) and healthcare management skills.

Now, trying to quantify abstract concepts like “grit” and “quality of life” is a fuzzy science at best, so the researchers created a scale to assess the subject’s grit levels and quality of life. 

They found that for each additional “unit” of grittiness people possessed, they scored 3.5 points higher on assessments of physical health and 8 points higher on assessments of mental health.

In other words, a small boost in grittiness pays major dividends in other areas of your life.

So, when you look at the scientific literature, the evidence is clear: gritty people are generally just healthier, more effective, and more successful at getting and staying fit.

That’s all well and good, you might think, but what if you aren’t naturally a gritty person? 

What if you tend to be more hedonistic than gritty, like Ethan Suplee used to be?

Are you stuck the way you are, or can you become more gritty? 

Well, yes, you can. Keep reading to learn how.

Summary: Multiple studies conducted the University of Chicago, University of Illinois, and Oklahoma state University all show that grittier people are better at losing weight, getting in shape, and taking care of their health than less gritty people. 

How to Get More Gritty in 4 Simple Steps

grit meaning and examples

Dr. Anglea Duckworth, a psychology professor at Penn State University, has spent her entire career studying how to increase your grittiness.

She’s written a best-selling book on the topic, advised White House staffers, Fortune 500 CEOs, and NFL and NBA players, and her TED talk on grit is one of the most viewed of all time. 

Through her extensive research, she’s identified four key ways you can increase your grittiness:

  1. Pursue passions with a purpose 
  2. Believe in positive prospects
  3. Practice, practice, practice
  4. Find “your” people

Pursue passions with a purpose.

Do you enjoy running, or do you think you have to run to lose weight? 

Do you like following a low-carb diet, or are you doing it because some fitness guru/fake doctor/Instagram charlatan said you should? 

Do you prefer intermittent fasting to a normal eating schedule, or do you think it’s the only way to lose weight? 

One of the reasons people think they lack grit, is because they’re wasting much of their willpower on activities they don’t really care about. So, before you tell yourself you don’t have enough grit to achieve your goals, take a moment to reassess your goals. 

Do you really need to run, or can you do another kind of more enjoyable cardio

Do you have to follow a low-carb diet, or could you get equal or even better results with a high-protein, high-carb diet

Do you have to do intermittent fasting, or could you make just as much progress with a different strategy? 

Again, before you assume you just don’t have what it takes, take an objective look at what you’re trying to do, cut out anything nonessential, and focus on what’s truly important. 

You can read this article to learn more about this:

Once you’ve narrowed down your actions to the things that are truly important, you need to dive deeper. You need to find your “fitness whys.” You need to figure out what’s really going to keep you on track toward your goals. 

Are you losing weight because you want to impress other people, or because taking care of your body is inherently important to you?

Do you want to get stronger just to have the pleasure of scribbling numbers in your workout log, or so you can stay strong, vital, and healthy into old age; so you can keep up with your kids and even grandkids? 

Do you want to eat healthier just to lose weight, or so you can set a good example for your friends and family? 

This is exactly what happened for actor Ethan Suplee. After years of playing “the fat guy” in Hollywood, he realized that if he wanted to be around for his wife and kids, he would need to get in shape. After gaining and losing over 1,000 pounds through decades of dieting and falling off the wagon, he completely transformed his physique in just a few years: 

ethan suplee transformation


The bottom line: figure out what makes you tick, and you’ll be surprised with how gritty you’ll suddenly become. 

Summary: It’s much easier to be gritty when you know what you’re aiming for and why it’s important to you. Before assuming you aren’t a gritty person, take a moment to reassess your goals and motivations.

Believe in positive prospects

The old adage “just believe in yourself,” might sound corny, but it has a big kernel of truth (harhar).

You can have all the passion in the world for eating healthy and working out, but if you don’t fundamentally believe change is possible—you won’t be as gritty as you could be. 

We know from previous research that having a growth mindset (believing you can change) is predictive of better motivation, which in turn increases grit.

When things get tough—and they will—many people tell themselves this is proof that they were really never meant to get the body they wanted. It just wasn’t in the cards. 

If you’re able to change your thinking, though, and believe that your goal is possible, these challenges start to look like minor speed bumps along the road to ultimate success.

For instance, let’s say you’ve lost 5 pounds, but you want to lose 10 pounds.

You’ve been stuck the past few weeks, though, and you’re starting to wonder if you’ll ever reach your goal. 

If you take a moment to remind yourself that you really can accomplish your goal, and take a step back to look at your situation objectively, you will find a solution. You’ll find more grit.

First of all, you should consider the fact that you’ve already lost weight. You know what you were doing works, so take heart that you’ll find a way to make it work again.

Maybe you need to tip the scales of energy balance back in your favor by squeezing in some more exercise each week and eating slightly less? 

Or, maybe it’s time for a diet break?

Or, maybe you just need to take a week or two off from dieting and exercising altogether, so you can rekindle your motivation to train and eat healthy? 

You’ll have moments of self doubt, but the better you can address these head-on, figure out new solutions, and execute them swiftly, the more gritty you’ll become.

Summary: It’s much easier to get gritty and stay that way if you believe in your heart of hearts that you can reach your goal. Take time to remind yourself of this when you have moments of self-doubt.

Practice, practice, practice

The more you do something, the better you get at it.

The better you get at something, the more you enjoy it. 

The more you enjoy something, the more you’ll want to do it. 

And the more you want to do something, the more grit you’ll develop (see point #1).

Developing grit is a skill like any other, and the more you train your grit muscles, the stronger they’ll become. 

In other words, you can turn grit into a habit. 

And just like creating any other habit, building grit involves setting small goals with relatively short-term deadlines to keep you on track toward your bigger goals. 

For example, instead of trying to lose weight by cutting your calorie intake in half and doing an hour of cardio per day—start with something you know you can stick to for the long haul.

Maybe just start by eating fruits or veggies and protein at every meal and making sure you get to the gym at least three days per week. 

Then, the next step would be to create a meal plan, maintain a calorie deficit, and follow a proper strength training plan.

And after that, you can start setting more audacious fitness goals, like “squat my body weight” or “get down to 20% body fat.”

Summary: You can build grit the same way you’d build any other habit—start small, stay consistent, and gradually expose yourself to greater and greater challenges that demand more and more grit. 

Find “your” people.

You’ve probably heard the famous Jim Rohn quote, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Well, it’s true, and especially so when it comes to getting gritty.

Whether you want to believe it or not, your friends, family, colleagues, gym partners, and significant others have a huge influence on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which can also affect your natural inclination or aversion to grittiness.

If your parents never want to go to restaurants with healthy options, your roommate badgers you to go to the bar instead of the gym, and your significant other always wants to watch a movie and order fast food instead of make a healthy sit-down dinner together, your grittiness will erode like a sand castle at high tide.

Even if you don’t realize it, surrounding yourself with un-gritty people will sabotage your ability to get and stay gritty.

Now, I’m not telling you to break up with all your buddies.

Here’s what you should do: 

  1. Break off contact with the people who are net negatives in your life. Have a loser roommate, a nagging, critical colleague, or a Debbie Downer friend? Unless there’s a good reason to keep them in your life, just stop spending time with them.
  2. For the people you do want to stay in contact with (significant other, parents, siblings, etc.) politely make it clear you aren’t interested in their opinions about your health choices. Explain to them why you’re doing what you’re doing, and that until you’ve reached your goal you aren’t going to compromise your goals to satisfy their expectations. Then stick to the plan.
  3. Most importantly, find and join a group of people who are trying to reach the same health and fitness goals—people who value and embody grit. This is the main reason CrossFit is so effective. Although the workouts might be a bit goofy, it gives people a community of like minded, gritty people who support one another.

It’s worth spending a moment to elaborate on that lost point. 

If your best friend leans towards “all-or-nothing” thinking and always seems to be picking up new goals without finishing them, she might not be the best person to depend on for support.

But maybe your co-worker is always on top of his health and fitness game, and could help you level up.

Before you go adding and subtracting people from your life—remember that some productive communication with your people might be all it takes to resolve any friction.

Ask yourself: Do they know how important my goals are to me? Have I communicated to them why I’m making these changes in my life? Would they be more supportive if I was more clear about what I’m doing?

You’d be surprised how considerate people can be after a conversation like this. 

Summary: Spending time around people who don’t value, support, or practice grittiness will reduce your ability to get and stay gritty. Likewise, spending time around other gritty people will significantly improve your grittiness.

The Bottom Line on Grit

grit test

Grit is “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.” 

In other words, gritty people are willing to endure more discomfort, disappointment, and sometimes downright despair in pursuit of their long-term objectives. 

Many studies have shown grit is correlated with success across many different domains, and this is also true of health and fitness. 

Specifically, studies show that grittier people are . . . 

  • More likely to work out and stick to a fitness program
  • Maintain or lose weight
  • Better at taking care of their overall health and have a higher quality of life

If you feel like you need to up your grit levels (and who couldn’t use a little more?), here’s what science says are the four best ways to get more gritty:

  1. Pursue passions with a purpose 
  2. Believe in positive prospects
  3. Practice, practice, practice
  4. Find “your” people

Do that, and you’ll not only race ahead of your peers when it comes to your health goals, but in other areas of your life as well.

If the concept of grit struck a chord with you, and want to learn more about how to boost your motivation, moxie, and sticktoitiveness, check out these articles: 

Use This Simple Mind Trick to Instantly Boost Your Motivation

4 Evidence-Based Ways to Stop Procrastinating Immediately

A Scientific Guide to Habits: How to Build Good Ones and Break Bad Ones

Stop Trying to Have Great Workouts

Finding Your Biggest Fitness Whys

The Curse of Complaining

The Ancient Art of Sacrifice

The Real Secret to Toughness (Probably Isn’t What You Think)

The #1 Unspoken Rule of Success

How to Motivate Yourself to Keep Working Out

What do you think about grit? Have anything else you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

+ Scientific References