Is Grit Your Path to Achievement?
To Overcome Your Challenges and Achieve Success, You’re Gonna Need Some Grit
Raise your hand if you like the feeling of falling flat on your face. Who likes to fail? Ya, I don’t see any hands going up. It is an awful feeling. No one likes failure, right?
“To learn to succeed, you must first learn to fail”- Michael Jordan
I clearly remember that quote hung up in my father’s basement gym. It was printed out on that old printer paper, the one with the tear-away edges.
When I was in the fourth grade, I broke my ankle playing basketball with my dad in the driveway. I was in a cast for months. The doctor told my parents I would never be a good runner. Since then, I have competed in and placed in countless 5ks, 10k, half, and full marathons.
When I competed in my first bodybuilding show in 2012, the judge told me I would never win. She said my quadriceps insertions were off, and my rib cage was too blocky. I remember her telling me that if I was serious about competing, I should consider getting a rib removed. Five years later, with all my ribs still there, I won my IFBB pro card.
When deployed overseas to Thailand, the Philippines, and Afghanistan in 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010, as a member of the Airborne Division, I was exposed to burn pits, breathing in toxic fumes. I developed chronic asthma and was told I would never be a high-performing athlete. 2019 I placed in the top 10% of the 2019 CrossFit open.
Failure and adversities are some of the ways that allow us to learn how to succeed in life. From my own experiences, the recipe for success combines grit, resilience, and passion. These three things allow ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
Passion is the feeling of excitement about something. The fuel drives us to accomplish that something with every fiber of our being.
“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” - Oprah Winfrey
Grit is your relentless efforts toward a goal, over a period, despite the obstacles. The leading academic researcher on Grit, Dr. Angela Duckworth, defines grit as a personality trait that combines perseverance and passion.
“Grit is not just a simple elbow-grease term for rugged persistence. It is an often invisible display of endurance that lets you stay in an uncomfortable place, work hard to improve upon a given interest, and go it again and again.” - Sarah Lewis
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from difficulties.
“Resilience is like riding a horse. If you get bucked off, you’ve got to get back on and try again” - Me.
What do these three things have to do with fitness? Well, for one, you are here on the Ironmaster blog and are most likely PASSIONATE about weightlifting. Secondly, whether you are starting your fitness journey or have been at it for quite some time, you have experienced some failure and nonetheless walked back into the gym the next day, which means you are resilient. Last but certainly not least, you want to succeed. Grit is your key to success.
When we think of grit, most of us picture this hard-core athletic person, sweaty, slamming battle ropes with that look of fire in their eyes. Some of us look at these hard-core pictures and videos on social media, wondering if that could ever be you. The answer is YES. But how do you get to that gritty level of athleticism? The answer is to stick with the things that are important to you. Every time you fail, are told you can’t do it, or have a setback, don’t quit. Get back on the horse that bucked you. This is essential to success, independent of whatever talent and intelligence a person has. The personality trait of grit is developed by life experience. Every time you push yourself one step further than you thought possible, you develop a little grit. And like anything, the more you practice it, the better it gets.
“If I stacked up all my failures next to my successes, the failure stack would be at least twice the size of my success stack” - Me again.
Whenever I failed, or was told no, or that I couldn’t do something, I worked harder. Who has the right to tell me what I can and can’t do? NO ONE. They said I couldn’t run, so I ran. They said I wouldn’t be able to perform at high intensity. I did CrossFit and placed. They said I would never win a bodybuilding show. I trained and competed until I won. And I then won again and again.
This is in you as well. Choose to do one more rep when it would be easier to stop. Prove to yourself -in unlimited ways, that you have what it takes to keep on going when the going gets tough. One thing that helps me is that I don’t label failures, obstacles, or setbacks as bad. I label them as an opportunity to learn. Perhaps you learn the way you tried wasn’t the right way, so you try a different way. You try until you find the way that works for YOU.
Here is an example: Start small. Let’s say your goal is to deadlift 500 lbs using your Olympic OB 86 barbell. First, you master the deadlift form. Your first few gym sessions practicing your deadlift will be ugly. But you don’t quit because you didn’t master the lift on your first try. Boom, you’ve developed some grit. Once you master the form, you start working on building strength. You master 100 lbs. You then move to 200 lbs. You failed your first few attempts at 200 lbs but didn’t quit. Boom, your grit is stronger. This continues until you reach your goal of 500 lbs. Remember, grit is perseverance over time. Deadlifting 500 lbs takes time. You fail, you try again, but you never quit. This may take years to accomplish, but you WILL achieve it, all while developing grit, resilience, and working on your passion.
No Grit, No Guts, No Glory
Grit is about establishing habits that allow you to show up consistently and overcome challenges and setbacks time and again.
Higher levels of grit and resilience are associated with greater levels of physical activity engagement and adherence.
Mentally tough athletes are more consistent than their less gritty counterparts. Gritty athletes don’t miss workouts.
Gritty athletes are more consistent than their peers. They have a clear goal that they work towards each day. They are not distracted by instant gratification scams, negative feedback, or excuses. They know their priority and don’t allow background noise to prevent them from making progress on their goal.
Those with higher levels of grit spend more time participating in high intensity and less time watching TV than those with low levels of grit.
At this point, you may be curious if you possess this trait of grit. Dr. Anglea Duckworth has created a 12-item Grit Scale. The purpose of this scale is to self-measure the extent to which individuals can maintain focus and interest and persevere in obtaining long-term goals. Scoring ranges from 1(not at all gritty) to – 5 (extremely gritty). You can assess yourself on the Grit Scale here. Once you complete it, follow the directions at the bottom to determine your grit score.
If you are a coach or trainer, I suggest incorporating a grit scale in your client/athlete assessment in your initial screening process. This may help identify a potential risk factor for poor adherence to programmed exercise prescriptions. If your athlete reflects a moderate to high level of grit, you can expect them to show up and do the prescribed work. If the athlete reflects low levels of grit, you can implement small steps to build their grit. By better understanding where you or your is at the outset, you’ll be more prepared to plan the correct path to lead them where they need to be.
“Life may try to knock you down but be persistent with your passions – cultivate grit, resilience, tenacity, and enduring success will come” - Amit Ray.
Grit is developed through all ages with life experiences. Yes, some are born grittier, and others must work hard to develop it (nature and nurture). Find your passion, set your goal, and work towards it. Feed that grit fire, as it just may be the thing that takes you from ordinary to extraordinary. I encourage you never to quit. You control your destiny no matter what obstacles you face or the negative feedback you receive. Failure is not bad; it is a necessary part of success.
About the Author
Ashley Hromyak, BS Kinesiology, CSCS, RYT200, TSAC-F is a US Army Veteran, a former airborne paratrooper who’s supported special operations and multiple combat tours, an IFBB professional bodybuilder, Yoga Instructor, and fitness coach. She has been training and coaching since 2007, and owning her own business, Go to Grow Fitness, LLC since 2012. Ashley has her BS in Kinesiology with a minor in coaching, and is graduating with her MS in Kinesiology in December 2023. Certifications: CSCS, TSAC-F, and RYT200.
Ironmaster has been specializing in producing the best home gym equipment since 1978. Check out Ironmaster.com to learn more about our equipment, like our legendary Super Bench Adjustable Weight Bench, the unrivaled Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbells, the customer favorite IM2000 Self Spotting Machine (Smith Machine style half rack!), and of course learn how to build a custom package to take advantage of our everyday discount program.
Keywords: grit, resilience, passion, perseverance, strength, courage, mental toughness, determination