Building Grit & Motivation Through Self Discovery

Grit isn’t merely that new buzz word you hear flitting around the education world - it’s a vital trait shared by those who ultimately achieve lasting success. While classified as a personality trait, it can actually be explicitly taught and built upon. Discovering qualities like strengths, weaknesses, values, skills, passions and more about oneself can help to build grit. The more intimately one is personally aware of their strengths, traits, and challenges, the better they are laying the groundwork for a gritty mindset because they can develop a set of tools to rely on when inevitably faced with setbacks. At the same time, the grit that is being built upon will open up new gateways of exploration to further one’s self discovery journey. Not only will this help individuals be prepared to push through challenges, but the process will also motivate them to keep working on every task - persevering through challenges and perhaps pivoting along the way - all the way to ultimate completion.



Self discovery, especially at a young age, is a critical part of development that ultimately leads to a young person developing a strong work ethic defined by resilience and perseverance. It involves making time for the necessary introspection to find out what spikes one’s interest, what one is inherently good at and enjoys doing, and what external conditions are most conducive to one working effectively. It’s also learning what one doesn't like and even finds challenging and frustrating. This can help to know when to reach out for help, research helpful resources, and lay out a game plan for those tasks that are really difficult.


This process - seeking help, proactively researching, planning for success - requires a mature mindset and is a prerequisite for developing true grit. The process of self discovery is unique for every person, dependent on your starting point, degree of vulnerability, level of grittiness, and more. However, everyone’s self discovery journey has the same end goal of identifying purpose, realizing true goals, and actualizing one’s inner potential.



Self discovery is also an ongoing journey, and it becomes increasingly important - albeit in new ways - as one reaches high school. Setting college and career goals requires considerable self reflection to learn about what one finds enjoyable, challenging, or dissatisfying. This can be helpful for students to use these insights to determine what courses to take, what special programs to invest time in to or interesting opportunities to research. Self discovery can help students unlock their full potential by knowing and leveraging strengths and weaknesses to their advantage as they navigate course work, extracurriculars, college and career exploration, and more. They can do so to the best of their abilities because of their awareness of where they thrive and how they struggle.


Here are some ways the self discovery process can help students uncover what motivates them - and in the process help them build grit:



1. Evaluate one’s skills- What is a student good at? What are areas they really struggle? Taking assessments to determine personality type and areas of interest can help to identify where students’ strengths (and weaknesses) lie. Thinking about more hands-on skills that one has is beneficial too; the things one has experience with and knows how to do. Having a solid understanding of one’s skill set is vital to making sure students are set up for success and won’t burn out.



2. Identify values and motivators- What are characteristics and experiences students are proud of? What are characteristics or traits that make them a better person, teammate, learner? Students should think of their accomplishments and analyze what those say about their mindset, abilities, and interests. The more in touch students are with what motivates them and what they value about themselves, the better they’ll be able to pursue goals that are good fits for them.



3. Pursue your passions - and keep an open mind- The more that students are able to identify those pursuits about which they are naturally passionate and motivated, the easier it will be to pursue goals … because it won’t feel like work! When we do things we love, we are enthusiastic and focused. At the same time, it is important that students never stop exploring because there just might be pursuits out there that they haven’t discovered yet.



4. Overcome the obstacles: Even while pursuing one’s passions, it is inevitable that the best laid plans will go sideways. Something challenging or simply unappealing will need to get done, students will come up against roadblocks, and they will question the decisions they have made to pursue a particular goal in the first place. This is where grit comes in to help one push through setbacks.




As a counselor, focus on specific actions that you can take to help your students build grit.



Here are some ways counselors can help their students build grit through self-discovery:



1. Help students identify inflection moments when they need to either change course, change their attitude, or change approach.



2. Reflect on past challenges and processes used to overcome them (what worked AND what didn’t work) … warn students about just giving up, because that can become a habit.



3. Facts v. feelings: when doing self-discovery and being in tune with oneself (interests, skills, motivations) students need to be careful to not let their momentary feelings overwhelm their logic. Do they trust the process enough to know when to ignore their own self-doubt?



4. Growth is in the struggle- Though grit is not developed overnight, by helping our students persevere through challenges - and teaching them the importance of doing so - we are setting them up for future success no matter what path they choose.



Learning more about oneself through self discovery is vital to setting and achieving goals. We can help students by providing them with the resources to dive into the journey of self discovery. This could be being a soundboard for their trials and tribulations, a gentle nudge when they need it to persevere on their path, or guiding them through self reflection to figure out where they’re going. This will support students in building grit, ultimately tapping into their full potential.


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