How to Build Grit and Resilience at Work

February 27, 2023

how to build grit and resilience at work

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and, above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.” -Marie Curie

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When life knocks us down, there are two brain tools that help us to pick ourselves back up: grit and resilience. This article will cover 4 simple steps on how to build grit and resilience on a daily basis.

Resilience Describes Our Emotional Health. 

Resilience is our ability to bounce back from challenges and the emotional strength we use to overcome crisis and failure. The more resilient we are, the less vulnerable we become to stress-related problems like depression and anxiety.

Grit Describes Our Mindset. 

Grit, on the other hand, describes the mindset we use to persevere through challenges, crises, and failure. 

I think about these 2 terms in this way. Sometimes life hits us hard, and we feel like we get knocked to the ground. Resilience means that we have the emotional strength to get back to our feet in a relatively short time.

But grit is what makes us decide to get back up.

In other words, resilience is the emotional capacity to get back to our feet after stress or crisis; grit is the decision to do so.

We may not know what is coming down the road, but grit and resilience carry us forward, anyway.

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
Harriet Beecher Stowe

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Are Gritty People Happier?

A team of researchers in China recently synthesized data from over 80 studies and 66,000 research participants. The results of this large-scale meta-analysis suggested that grit is strongly linked to buoyant feelings of happiness and higher satisfication in our work, school, and life in general. 

4 Main Traits of Grit

The term "grit" was made popular by psychologist Angela Duckworth based on her 2016 book: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

Duckworth describes 4 key elements to grit: 

4 Traits of Grit
  1. Grit means that we feel passionate about the personal and professional journey that we’re on.
  2. Grit also takes practice. It means we take the knock-downs and choose to learn from them. Practice is what helps us figure out what mistakes to avoid and what to do better next time.
  3. The deeper currents of passion contain in them our sense of purpose.
  4. And finally, we strive to maintain the positive outlook we need to protect our mental and emotional health.

Simple Steps to Build More Grit and Resilience

  • Pursue your passions relentlessly. Perhaps this goes without saying, but it's easier to pursue your passions if you know what they are. you know? Personally or professionally? If not, think about your main values in life. What projects align with your top values? What pursuits make your heart race, just thinking about them? If you're still struggling, try completing these sentences: "If I could change the world in one way, I would..." Or "My dream job would allow me to..." Dr. Susan Biall Hass also gives some great suggestions in this article.
  • Practice deliberately. If you've ever learned a musical instrument or sport, you know that quantity of practice time does not equal quality. To make our practice time count, it must push us in two ways: 1) consistently failing forward - that is, spending proportionatley more time on weak areas or new territory so that we are forced to make mistakes and learn from them; and 2) focusing on making small, incremental gains after every practice session.

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Thomas Edison

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  • Work within your life's purpose. A great exercise to use here is the Ikigai Model.
  • Choose a positive outlook. This one can be tough because our common reactions to stress and crisis are the opposite of positive. We can feel frustrated, angry, sad, depressed, and even despairing. So, the operative word here really is "choose." Positivity - and even more buoyant feeligs like joy and happiness - are sometimes choices we make despite current circumstances. One simple way to start is the "Three Good Things" exercise. At the end of every day, ask yourself, "What are 3 good things that happened to me today? How did those things make me feel? What role did I play in making them happen?" Following this deceptively simple exercise will nurture positive emotions like joy and gratitude.

“Adversity, and perseverance and all these things can shape you. They can give you a value and a self-esteem that is priceless.”
Scott Hamilton

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Want More Training on Grit and Resilience? 

If you want to explore grit and resilience further, you might be interested in my trainings on these topics. 

A complete llist of my current trainings can be found on my profile page at But here are the rough details:

Format: 45-60 minute keynote (also available as 1.5-2 hr workshop)

This program is perfect for:

  • employees/organizations who have recently gone through a crisis or large change initiative
  • those who want to learn skills for resiliency and grit

You will learn:

  • practical exercises for the four key elements of building grit and resilience;
  • a fail-proof method for succeeding at your life goals;
  • the secret to staying resilient during crisis; and
  • ten powerful emotions that promote emotional wellbeing.

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”
Henry Ford

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About the author 

Pamela Coburn-Litvak

Pam is a neuroscientist, author, speaker, and certified executive coach. Her research articles have been published in scientific journals including Neuroscience and Neurobiology of Learning and Behavior.

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