The concepts of “hardiness” and “grit” are both different and similar in certain ways. Both tend to value the importance of commitment and the positive management of challenges. They both address the issue that these traits are not necessarily inborn and can be developed under the right conditions. These researchers are also in agreement that the performance of certain behaviors can have a fundamental impact on an individual’s level of success. How then, if one is not particularly “hardy” or does not seem to go about accomplishing their goals with the qualities associated with “grit,” is it possible to become “hardier” and “grittier?”
Suzanne C. Kobasa and Salvadore Maddi believe that hardiness can be developed over time by emphasizing the need to help people develop better ways of coping with stress as well as helping them not to generate stress however possible. They both believe that the development of hardiness can be strengthened by child-rearing practices designed to help children see themselves and the world as interesting, worthwhile, and satisfying, thus preventing them from viewing themselves and the world as dull, meaningless, and frustrating. This difference may well result from the overall degree to which the interactions they had with their parents were supportive, facilitating satisfaction, and providing encouragement and acceptance.
Counseling for hardiness is the other way that the characteristics of commitment, control, and challenge can be learned and instilled, assuming that the unproductive behaviors of a “non-hardy” past can be broken. Cognitive-based therapies may be central in helping people become hardier, but it is a complex undertaking that requires a good deal of time and effort to achieve in a durable way. One might argue that any therapy has as an implicit objective to help the individual acquire the characteristics associated with hardiness as discussed above.
What about helping people to become “grittier?” Researcher Carol Dweck suggests that all of us possess either a fixed or a growth mindset. People with a growth mindset believe that they can improve their grades, learn new skills, and achieve their goals in general if they try hard enough. People with a fixed mindset do not think that they have the ability to improve and, as a result, are more inclined to give up whatever they are trying to accomplish when they face difficulty and get frustrated. This is consistent with our general understanding of the differences between optimists, who handle life’s challenges very differently than pessimists, who tend to be less happy, less accomplished, and suffer more.
Like the developers of ‘hardiness,’ Duckworth emphasizes the importance of child-rearing practices designed to foster interest, purpose, and hope in children that will support the likelihood of them becoming adults who will have a greater capacity to persevere and develop passion, i.e. become ‘grittier.’ Strong parental role models who demonstrate the characteristics associated with grit are vitally important to the developing child who will emulate his parents.
Here, too, any counseling or psychotherapy strives to help people acquire or strengthen ‘hardy’ or ‘gritty’ qualities. A focus on being better able to cope with stress, develop greater resilience, have a positive outlook, and develop or strengthen already existing qualities like passion and perseverance are most helpful in this effort.
One of the things I emphasize in my work with patients is to help develop the belief that one can learn to handle most of the difficult challenges and stressors that occur in everyday life. This includes coping with failure and doing whatever is possible to achieve success in its place. Working with this focus often shifts a person’s point of view about what might be possible for them which increases optimism and, therefore, the motivation to work toward change and achieve their therapeutic goals.