A young woman wearing a light blue apron and a baggy tan sweater stands in front of a storefront with her arms crossed. To the right of the woman is a sign listing the hours of the store. The woman has a confident smile on her face.
Psychological studies show that people with grit may be more likely to pursue an entrepreneurial path. — Getty Images/Oscar Wong

Grit isn’t just a buzzword, nor is it solely a sign of mental toughness. Instead, it’s a trait that helps you persevere and remain focused on long-term goals. Research suggests that grit enables people to succeed through a determination to overcome adversity. However, grit also involves passion, which helps entrepreneurs find meaning and purpose.

Although grit is considered a personality trait, you can increase your endurance by improving your focus and goal-setting abilities. Learn what grit means and why entrepreneurs should cultivate this trait.

The meaning of grit in entrepreneurship

The American Psychological Association (APA) Dictionary of Psychology defines grit as a personality trait. Angela Duckworth, University of Pennsylvania Professor and co-founder, chief scientist, and board member of Character Lab, pioneered research on grit and said it involves perseverance and passion. In addition, research published in Frontiers in Psychology suggests that “the sustained interest in important long-term goals [is] a core feature of grit.”

Grit means resilience, the ability to keep working towards an objective that takes months or years to complete. It requires self-control to focus on the big picture and stay the course. Likewise, people with grit can motivate themselves to push forward and progress, even after a setback or through periods of little to no forward movement.

Many entrepreneurs have both passion and grit. The latter enables them to overcome obstacles instead of abandoning or switching tasks. And the former keeps entrepreneurs emotionally engaged. Indeed, a Columbia Business School study indicates “that passion is a key ingredient of grit.” Like some entrepreneurial personality traits, grit and passion are predictors of future success.

[Read more: Heywell Founders: ‘Celebrate the Wins and Persevere Through Challenges’]

Grit may predict entrepreneurial success

According to a study in the Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research, people with grit may be more likely to pursue self-employment. It found a strong correlation “between grit and entrepreneurial intentions.” But what about intellect and education? The APA Dictionary of Psychology refers to recent studies suggesting that grit “may be more relevant than intelligence in determining a person’s high achievement.”

Moreover, the Columbia Business School study proposes that people with more passion and perseverance “devote greater cognitive effort and investment to their goals.” Lastly, research on the role of individual entrepreneurial orientation theorizes that “consistency of interest” and “perseverance of effort” are “positively and significantly related to entrepreneurial success.”

The bottom line is that people with grit may perform better in school, sports, and entrepreneurship. A big part of this success is setting and achieving goals while overcoming challenges.

Grit means resilience, the ability to keep working towards an objective that takes months or years to complete.

Grit and a growth mindset

Both grit and a growth mindset can be cultivated. You aren’t necessarily born with determination, and many people grow up with a fixed mindset, meaning failure is something to avoid. Yet they train their brains to try again and innovate even when failure seems almost inevitable. A growth mindset means you’re discovering that there’s space between “I can do it” and “I can’t.” And in that space, grit helps you persevere.

Growth-orientated individuals don’t see failure as the end. Instead, it’s simply one business method, product, or message that didn’t work. That defeat is a reason to create a new, better solution and try again. With grit, these same growth-minded entrepreneurs keep their eye on the long-term goal and endure a few failures.

[Read more: 7 Simple Ways to Get Past Your Fear of Failure]

Increasing grit as an entrepreneur

Duckworth said she encourages her children to “practice hard things every day and to interpret failure and adversity as necessities of learning.” You can expand on this idea in your own life to improve your grit and tenacity for reaching your business goals.

Here are a few things you can do to improve grit:

  • Enhance your performance daily: Deliberate practice trains your mind to focus on improving specific weaknesses. Set a goal, measure your progress, and work on it daily.
  • Focus on your purpose: Grit and passion go hand-in-hand. Understand what makes your work meaningful and return to those roots when facing hardships.
  • Embrace failure and move on: Treat a mistake as a teaching moment. Learn from it, but don’t dwell.
  • Create attainable yet ambitious objectives: Visualize your future by developing short- and long-term goals. Without a boss, only you can make yourself accountable for your accomplishments (or lack thereof).
  • Have human resources to lean on: Grit doesn’t mean doing everything yourself. Design a support system for personal and business interests.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published August 31, 2022