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Resilience - Grit and Gumption

The Business Value of Grit and Gumption

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Most definitions of resiliency stress the ability to bounce back from adversity. Grit and gumption are two of the characteristics often associated with resiliency. Individually and organizationally, this translates to the ability to reach goals despite obstacles.


How Important Is Grit in Reaching Your Goals?

Grit, or passion and tenacity in reaching your goals, has recently come under more intense study as a prime component of resiliency. To have grit, you need to have a purpose, confidence in your ability to affect outcomes, willingness to see negative experiences as an opportunity to grow, acceptance that perfection cannot be reached, and doing one’s best is worth celebrating.

Tenacity and passion are not always found in combination and may not contribute equally to a sense of well-being and to strength of character. A study of over 7500 people on 6 continents showed that tenacity (preservation of interest) has a moderate to strong relationship to both well-being and strength of personality; but passion (consistency of interest) has a low relationship. Grit is not a uniform experience, and the traits that go into grit are not equally valuable. 

The tentative conclusion is that people can persevere even if their objective (winning a client, finishing a project) does not ignite their passions. In fact, some researchers argue that hope—optimism in the future—and not grit is more important in driving people forward.

Nonetheless, with both tenacity and hope, you are most likely to reach your goals. To ensure your success it helps to have: 

  • Repeated practice over time and—realistically—a bit of luck 
  • A close association with other people who have purpose, passion, and tenacity; the united grit of a group is very powerful 
  • An understanding that grit is not the magic door to success, but it is important.


How Important Is Gumption in Reaching Your Goals?

Gumption is the willingness to take the initiative and the courage to take action. Gumption allows you to move past fear, be a leader for yourself and others, and use your common sense as well as intelligence to move ahead despite obstacles.

Courage has many definitions, but the consensus is that it is not the absence of fear but the ability to act despite fear. If you are frightened and insecure, people are unlikely to follow your lead; if you at least act brave and confidence, people will follow. 

To increase gumption, you need to: 

  • Be willing to initiate any steps toward a goal; you have to start somewhere
  • Congratulate yourself on small advances; there is no need to go straight from a fear of heights to bungee jumping.
  • Be self-aware enough to recognize what triggers your fear 
  • Know when it is time to stop until you are in control again.


The Effects of High and Low Grit and Gumption

When a thousand senior citizens were evaluated for longevity, researchers found that those who considered themselves resilient, with high grit and gumption, were also more compassionate. A coauthor of the study stated, “Mental resiliency can be developed through meditation, mindfulness and stress reduction practices. We can also teach people that the silver lining to adversity is an opportunity for personal growth.”

In the workplace, high levels of grit and gumption are associated with lower turnover and better concentration. The relationship is cyclical: high grit and gumption increase the chance of success and the experience of success increases grit and gumption. Providing opportunities for a team and its members to succeed is one of the more important ways to raise both grit and gumption.

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