Grit Without Passion is Just Drudgery

Got grit? This buzzword has grabbed a lot of headlines lately. But stories of perseverance have captured our collective imagination since, well, forever. We love rooting for those who overcome obstacles through hard work and determination.

Just last year, tennis superstar Serena Williams, who faced a life-threatening medical crisis after giving birth to her daughter in 2017, fought her way back to the Wimbledon finals in what Time magazine called, “…one of the most spectacular displays of will, skill and grit in the history of the game.”

What’s been missing in the grit analysis?

But, is having grit alone enough to achieve success in life? Until now, researchers hadn’t found consistent proof that grittier people are more likely to succeed. Critics began calling the concept of grit an “overhyped mirage.” That should change with a new study by Columbia Business School and Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

Earlier analyses of grit fell short, say these researchers, because they primarily focused on perseverance and undervalued the key ingredient of passion. Sure, persistence can lead to achievement, but it won’t necessarily lead to happiness. As the researchers note, perseverance without that clear sense of direction that passion provides does not propel people forward.


“We were not surprised to find that dogged dedication to an objective – without a true passion for the goal – is mere drudgery,” says Columbia Professor Adam Galinsky. “But until now, research on grit failed to factor in the propulsive force that animated grit’s perseverance. By properly incorporating passion into the grit equation, we now have evidence that people who are passionate for their goal and persevere towards it will reach higher heights.”

How to up your own grit factor

Finding your passion can be the most challenging element of building up grit. After all, forging ahead on tasks that fill you with dread may technically qualify you as persistent, but won’t make you gritty. Dr. Angela Duckworth, author of the New York Times bestseller Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, acknowledges that it isn’t always easy to find your passion.

In a recent interview published in Psychology Today, Duckworth explains, “It would seem on the face of things that perseverance would be the harder part of grit to master, but my recent experience and conversations with millennials as well as younger generations and middle-aged professionals is that figuring out something that you love is harder.”

Her advice? Stop ruminating and start doing. Fan that initial spark through action.  “If you think you might want to be a doctor, start volunteering in a hospital. If you think you might want to be a writer, start writing,” Duckworth says. “Sampling is better than specialization, especially early on.”

Forget what others expect from you and focus on finding the things that actually ignite your interest. Do you feel a pull toward certain projects at work or beyond? What activities cause you to focus so intently that you forget about everything else around you?  Once you identify your passions, tap into them and relentlessly pursue the life and career goals you’ve deemed worthy of your time and energy. This powerful combination will allow you to maximize the true potential for success that defines grit today.

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One Response to Grit Without Passion is Just Drudgery

  1. Babar Munir says:

    A banker became bankrupt due to 2008 r ew al estate crisis in Dubai. Life stop moving forward due to job loss, police raids, 24 + police/court cases due to payment defaults of 38+ credit cards/bank defaults (used for property purchases). Passion demanded to become a WINNER in every case(+/-) and preserverance was highly required to finish all financial crisis in a respectable way after earning money as a jobless banker.
    Being locked in the dead end situation, he did reverse engg.(btw he was a mechanical engineer before becoming the banker). He borrowed cell phone sim from his friend and started working as a free lance banking consultant, as he was now an illegal and an absoncder marked by his last bank. This proved blessing in disguise for this office bound banker who discovered his sharp negotiation and sales skills in this to tough time and learned more banking products and banking policies of all local and foreign banks. After two years, he opened a new business consultancy firm in the name of his legal status holding employee and started running all classes company affairs from the backstage, as he desperately needed a personal business card, official email I’d and a bank account for his professional needs and clients demands. He developed contacts and thus learned the products, rates and practices of more than 80 local and DIFC based foreign banks.
    At the start of the recent amnesty of 2018 in Dubai, he had already settled all of his outstanding police/court cases by paying more than $0.5 million and he regularized and legalisted his status and thus started living as a free person. He immediately bought a mobile sim, rented a new flat, and opened a new business Advisory firm… All under his OWN NAME. A real life story of 8 years, showing remarkable preseverence and passion and full with mental and emotional scenarios (for example, he could not go to his home country for the last 10 years, not even on the deaths of his father and only brother in 2015) due to his illegal immigration status.

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