Food for Thought – Will and Grit

At a glance will power and grit appear to be remarkably similar.  They both require mental, emotional, and physical energy.  They also empower and enable us to drive our decisions and behaviors.  Because they require energy to use they are a finite resource that has to be recharged, but can also be increased and grown

There are also some distinct, but subtle difference that are worth talking about.  As an example, I like to take cold showers as a way to build my capacity for will power and grit.  It takes will power to turn that nice warm shower from hot to cold, but once the ice water starts flowing grit allows me to stand in it longer and longer.

An increased capacity for will power will indirectly drive an increased capacity for grit and conversely an increased capacity for grit supports an increased capacity for will power.  Because of this a deficit in one also influences the power and effectiveness of the other.  In my opinion this is why a cold shower in the morning is so effective at training and building both will power and grit.

Will Power

Will power is about self control.  It is the resource pool we tap into when we have to decide not to eat one of those cookies in the cookie jar, or that we need to get up off the coach to go to the gym.  The energy required to use will power is spontaneous like a lightning strike.  It can be described as in internal slap on the hand to stop or a kick in the butt to get going.

Building Will Power

Building will power should be an active process we seek out.  My two favorite ways to build will power are cold showers and morning push ups/squats.  Both of these activities train that sharp response needed to spark activation energy but they don’t require massive amounts of will power to activate the actions so the will power reserve gets flexed quickly but not used up.

Other ideas for building will power:

  • Food logging
  • Restraints (fasting, social media, coffee,)
  • Journaling


Grit is about perseverance.  It is the resource pool we have to tap into when we are working hard at something over time.  The energy used for grit is persistent like a burning forge.  Grit is like the little engine that could constantly repeating “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”  until the job is done.

Building Grit

Building grit should also be an intentional process.  My two favorite activities for building grit are ruck marching and lifting heavy weights.  These are both physically exhausting over time and allow for plenty of “I think I can” moments.  By pushing yourself in these activities not only do you get physically stronger, but you also grease the grove for accessing the grit furnace when you need it.

Other ideas for building grit

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Adventure races


pick an an activity you can add to your life that will help grow your will power and grit reserves.  Remember to be intentional.  once you have this new habit running smoothly look for how this new habit is indirectly making other uses of will power and grit more effective.

Expanded Reading

There are two books that really drove my thoughts behind this article.  They are Mastery, by Robert Green and The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhig.  I found the combination of these two books to be incredible and I would suggest reading them back to back.



If you want to discuss things a little further, check out our closed facebook discussion group to share your thoughts and join in the discussion. Or you can email me directly at  If you are interested in further reading check out other Food for Thought articles and learn all about the Archetypes of Skill.  You can also sign up to receive The Friday Huddle, a short weekly email from me that gives you the tips, insights, and musings that have gotten me through the week.

Live Skillfully!



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