Push Boundaries, Build Grit!

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strived valiantly; who errs, who comes again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Theodore Roosevelt’s famous speech about the man in the arena highlights a quality that supersedes IQ or natural skill: GRIT. When a person “strives valiantly” and persists in effort despite several failures, this determination is what ultimately yields results! It is not difficult to draw the link between grit and success – in sports, in school, in life. Obviously, an athlete who is passionate and determined to hone a skill will not stop at one failure or even one thousand failures. That athlete will succeed, though not immediately. This misconception that successful people are just more intelligent or more naturally skilled may be the reason why some people will quit long before achieving their goals. Because if at first you don’t succeed, maybe you’re just not smart enough or talented enough to make it happen. How wrong that assumption is!

In fact, natural talent, skill or intelligence actually works against success. What?! If things come easily, as with natural talent, skill or intelligence, failure means the thing for which you strive is just not within your ability to attain. This is something psychologists call a “fixed mindset.” When success and ability are perceived as fixed, it is literally impossible to break beyond that barrier. Your potential for talent, skill and intelligence are all fixed, with a hard boundary that is impossible to surpass, this mindset often blocks success.

Conversely, grit requires a growth mindset, as psychologist and grit researcher Angela Duckworth notes in her TED talk. This means that “failure is not viewed as a permanent condition, but an opportunity for improvement.” Within the athletic population, a “grittier” athlete will surpass a less “gritty” athlete, even if the grittier athlete is less naturally skilled.

Now the topic winds down to the bottom line. If you do no have grit, your success has a hard cap. Until you build grit, all the muscles in the world will not earn you success. All your natural ability or intelligence will be worthless, because difficulties will arise. If you are unable to embrace the fact that “there is no effort without error and shortcoming,” and recognize that this is how success is attained, you will not succeed.

Here’s the good news, in case you recognize that you are nestled into that fixed mindset: you can build grit! Push the boundaries of your comfort zone. Don’t rest in the middle, because nothing grows in your comfort zone (except maybe your love handles). All of your dreams are conveniently positioned slightly out of your reach. It is your job to accept the fact that you will be a little uncomfortable as you strive to attain them!


Kate Youngblood is a Physical Therapist Assistant specializing in functional mobility and strength. This blog is an extension of her writing promoting health and wellness in every aspect of life. Contact her at kate@streamlinesportspt.com or through Facebook to receive recipes and clean eating tips by following this link.




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