We all want to be better than we are today. 

And that often requires pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, even when you don’t feel like it. It requires getting back up and trying again and again when you fail. It requires sticking with a path long enough to see it through. 

In short, becoming a better man requires grit

The concept of grit has become well-known in recent years, due to the efforts of psychologist Angela Duckworth, who has spent her career trying to figure out what makes people gritty and how they can intentionally foster and nurture this quality in their own lives. In her book on the subject, she defines grit as “the intersection of passion and perseverance.” 

So develop a combination of enthusiasm and determination, and you’re on your way to living a life of flinty resolve, right?

Well, in his book The Art of the Impossible, peak performance expert Steven Kotler argues that while this equation is a good start, grit is actually more multifaceted than that. Through years of studying and interviewing the world’s highest-level athletes, artists, writers, entrepreneurs, etc., Kotler has found that grit can helpfully be broken down into six different types, each of which must be trained independently, and mastered thoroughly.

Below we highlight these six types of grit and offer brass tacks actions you can take to develop them yourself.

1. The Grit to Persevere

This is the grit we’re all familiar with. This is the Duckworth type of grit. The grit to persevere is the ability to persist in a task or big goal, for extended periods, whether conditions are fair or foul. 

According to Kotler, the grit to persevere is made up of three psychological sub-traits: 1) willpower, 2) mindset, and 3) passion:

Willpower

Willpower equates to self-control, and it’s easy to see why developing this quality would be necessary in developing the grit of perseverance. Willpower allows us to direct our thoughts, emotions, and attention in intentional ways. We use our willpower to stay focused on the task at hand, delay gratification, stifle impulses (saying no to dessert; resisting the urge to hit the snooze button), and push ourselves further than we’re otherwise inclined to go (running an extra mile; working an extra hour).

We’ve written extensively about willpower, and I highly recommend you check those articles out. But below are a few suggestions on how to increase your quantity of this quality:

Do your most difficult tasks first. While scientific research has been mixed as to whether willpower is a finite resource, everyone knows from lived experience that it decidedly is. The more we exercise self-control for one task, the less we have for others. So to ensure you have the willpower to accomplish your most important, most difficult tasks, tackle them at the start of your day when your proverbial willpower meter is full. 

Limit your choices. When you make a choice, you use a bit of willpower. So structure your life so you have to make fewer decisions. Create habits; set up systems; follow routines; automate little things so you have more energy for big ones.

Do hard things. Willpower is sort of like a muscle. Just like a muscle, it needs to be exercised to get stronger. Doing hard things increases your capacity for doing hard things.