THE BLOG
03/20/2014 11:51 am ET | Updated May 20, 2014

Do You Have Grit?

Have you ever wanted to give up on something that you really, really wanted because it was just too darn hard to keep trying?

You can't run one more step, write one more word, endure one more dead end?

Join the club.

Can I Sit Down Now?

But, before you throw in the towel, there's something you should know.

People who succeed at getting what they want in life aren't smarter, more talented or luckier than you.

They just might have something psychologists call grit: the ability to keep going no matter what. Grit, it turns out, may be one of the most powerful ingredients in your success recipe.

Smart Grit

I'm not talking about trying endlessly to reach a goal where the chance of victory is close to zilch, like opening an ice cream shop in Antarctica. Although never say never.

I'm talking about the grit you need to stay on your healthy diet, save money or follow your dream. Grit is different from willpower, the ability to focus for snippets of time, say, just long enough to resist that cookie. Grit is willpower's big brother. It's endurance for the long haul; the stamina to keep going even when you stumble.

I Want Some Grit, Please

When I was writing my doctoral dissertation, an intense research project that was my final step before getting my PhD, I needed a giant dose of grit.

That's because the dissertation experience can be pretty grueling. I'd met students who were in dissertation-anxiety support groups, and I'd watched exhausted graduates-sporting newly spawned gray hair-lumber down the aisle to finally accept their diplomas, some after 10 years.

It was clear; I was going to need some serious stick-to-itiveness if I wanted to make it to graduation before my social security benefits kicked in.

Santa To The Rescue

My own grit arrived in an unexpected flash of inspiration. In the midst of a late night writing session, I suddenly remembered a television show my brothers and I watched every year at Christmastime called Santa Claus is Comin' To Town. In the show, there was a song I never forgot called "Put One Foot In Front Of The Other."

I suddenly realized that to complete my dissertation, that's exactly what I needed to do: put one foot in front of the other. Rather than looking at the enormity of the task ahead of me, I needed only to write one word, one paragraph, one page at a time. If I could do that -- over and over again -- I could find my grit and finish my dissertation.

To remind myself, on the wall over my computer, in big blue letters, I taped the words "Darlene, Put One Foot In Front Of The Other." When I felt my spirits sag or there was a unexpected detour, I looked up at those words on the wall. I pushed ahead-one step at a time -- and made it all the way to graduation day.

You Can Do It

Are you chasing a dream that feels distant? Or do you want to improve your life in some way, but it's hard to stay on track? I know it's tough to keep going when you're alone on your path or the road ahead is unclear.

That's why I want to share with you the 3-minute video clip that inspired me. Watch it, and remember its simple message: put one foot in front of the other. Those words were so encouraging to me, they've since become my personal mantra. No matter where you're headed -- one step at a time -- that's how you'll get there.

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