Grit or Quit?

Hi!!! And Welcome Back to Motivated Mondays! 

We’re talking about well-being. 

A quick recap of last week before we continue.

Last week, we explored the question: How do we engage by choice? Attention is a limited resource. It takes effort to will something into action. This is especially true of things we need to do, but do not want to do. Yet, sometimes, it is even challenging to garner the motivation to do what you want to do. There can be tension between desire and action. Sometimes temptation to act against your own desire can complicate the motivational process. 

So, I introduced you to the exercise Wanting What You Want to Want (WWYWW)*. This exercise is designed to develop and focus your voluntary attention in order to bring your desires more in line with your values. While looking at our Character Strengths earlier in this year, we learned that aligning your values with your actions can increase motivation, energy, and effort towards a task (6). Actively reminding yourself of your values can help you engage! 

Did you accept my invitation to grab a friend and try WWYWW? I hope you did! If so, what did you notice? I find that answering the question — What would you need to focus on to make you want to do this thing more? — can be very powerful and sometimes surprising. Did you or your friend happen upon an answer to this question that surprised you? Which answer was the most motivating and helpful as you shifted the needle of desire towards the action you wanted to want to do? Did you find it helpful to be in a location where you could immediately take action after the exercise and do the thing you now hopefully wanted to do? If you reversed the exercise to resist temptation, what helped you resist doing the thing you wanted to do?

I hope you found WWYWW helpful. I invite you to continue your momentum, and ask your friend to be an accountability partner. This way, you can support each other’s progress and celebrate actions that move towards your desired result. Remember, to focus your attention with intention and align your actions with your values to capitalize on engagement.

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This week, I want to remind you that engagement itself is neither good nor bad. It all depends on what we choose to engage in. We live in a world that stresses the importance of engagement. This seems helpful given the host of benefits that engagement can provide (1). But we’ve also seen, that sometimes, engagement does not help our well-being. Engagement in an activity that we are obsessively passionate about can be detrimental to our world and the worlds of those around us (2). 

Many people feel that persistence and grit are the pathway to excellence. Our culture supports this assumption with images and beliefs like this-- 

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But, is this true?

I have chosen not to discuss grit at length, because I believe it gets a lot of air time and the popular conversation around grit can muddle the importance aligning your values in action. I do not believe the ‘never say die’ ‘keep calm and carry on attitude’ is the only way to support growth and excellence (4). 


Don’t get me wrong, there is clear evidence to support grit, the development of performance through deliberate practice, and the value of persistence in the face of challenge (3), and I believe Duckworth's work on grit allows room for the alignment of values. Resilience is also vital for well-being, just look back to my blog series on resilience earlier this year (5). I’m a big fan! But even if we choose a life of courage and develop persistence, grit (3), and resilience (5) to overcome challenge while actively engaging our strengths and abilities in an effort to grow, we need emotional agility (4).

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Sometimes continuing to engage in an activity is harmful to our health and well-being (2). Sometimes we need to pause, take stock, and ask ourselves the very important question — is it time to grit or quit?

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It’s important to recognize that I am not saying that engagement should always be enjoyable. Inevitably, life will bring moments that are not fun or easy (5). We will need and want to do things that we are not passionate about (2) or that do not offer us a sense of flow (1). Sometimes we have to rise to challenge, dig deep, find grit, and leverage persistence (3). And sometimes, we need to step back, reassess, align actions to values, listen to the whispers in our heart, and pivot (4). 

Sometimes quitting is the most courageous thing you can do! 

Making choices that align with our values is not always easy. It’s dynamic, because we change over time. Values can conflict, and when they do, priorities have to be made. So yes, be gritty, but not rigidly persistent. It’s easy to feel like a quitter when grit is valued above all else (4). So, if you need permission, I am here to say it is okay to quit sometimes! Transitions are inevitable, and those that are chosen to align your actions and values can be powerfully positive. Scary, sure, but there is no shame in transition. Let yourself evolve. 

So, how do you know when it is time to grit or quit? 

Well, sometimes others decide for you. Careers that value youth, positions that stress you out, or relationships that don’t work out as hoped are all examples. But knowing when to walk away or give it another shot is a balance between sunk and opportunity costs (4). The sunk cost is the time, energy, money, etc. that you have already expended while following your path. The opportunity cost is what you give up by sticking with the choices you have made. If you step back and stop fretting about sunk costs, you can check in. Only you can decide what feels authentic and in alignment with your dreams, goals, strengths, and values. 

I encourage you to show up for yourself and invite you to ask these questions when considering whether or not you want to Grit or Quit (4):

  1. Do you find joy or satisfaction overall with your current choice?
  2. Does your current choice reflect your values and priorities?
  3. Does your current choice leverage your strengths?
  4. If you are honest with yourself, do you truly believe you can be a success?
  5. What opportunities are you releasing to persevere with this goal?
  6. Are your being gritty or stupid? (In other words, are you being rigid? Holding on in fear of change? Or if you were your best friend, would you recommend a pivot?)

Seek the sweet spot to flow between challenge and mastery (1), move forward with harmonious passion (2), strength (6), honesty, and emotional agility (5). Engage in the process of becoming with agility and leave room for the you that emerges along the way.  

I hope these few weeks have helped you discover ways to find engagement, align your values to your actions, and support your well-being as you grow in your own journey of becoming your best self. 

Join me next week as we dive wrap up engagement and dive into the next element of PERMA (7) - Positive Relationships!As always, gratitude for the expertise of the following resources.


1. Csikszentmihalyi M. The anatomy of consciousness. Flow: The psychology of optimal experience (pp. 23-42). New York: Harper Perennial; 1990.

2. Vallerand R, Blanchard C, Mageau G, Koestler R, Ratelle C, Léonard M, Gagne M, Marsolais J. Les passions de l'ame: on obsessive and harmonious passion. Journal of personality and social psychology. 2003; 85(4), 756-767.

3. Duckworth A. Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. Simon and Schuster; 2016.

4. David S. Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life. Penguin; 2016.

5. Reivich, K, Shatté, A. The resilience factor: 7 keys to finding your inner strength and overcoming life's hurdles. Random House Digital, Inc; 2003.

6. Peterson C, Seligman M. Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification (Vol 1). Oxford University Press; 2004.

7. Seligman M. Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and wellbeing. New York: Free Press; 2011.