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Grit, Mental Toughness, and Sisu – the Qualities that Separate Excellence from Mediocrity

If you want your children to be successful in life, you need to help them develop grit. In an earlier post on this subject, we touched on some of the ways children can learn to be “gritty”:

But surely there’s got to be more…

Grit has been defined as a “firmness of mind or spirit; unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger”.

Mental Toughness

Mental toughness is a quality often associated with sports and refers to the mental qualities of the sportsperson. It refers to a “collection of attributes that allow a person to persevere through difficult circumstances and emerge without losing confidence” (Wikipedia). I don’t know about you but that sounds a lot to me like grit.

“Most elite athletes report that at least 50% of superior athletic performance is the result of mental or psychological factors, and a whopping 83% of coaches rate mental toughness as the most important set of psychological characteristics for determining competitive success.” – Scientific American.

The development of mental toughness is an ongoing process that is the result of repeated exposure to a variety of experiences, challenges, and adversities.


Sports Can Increase Mental Toughness

Mental toughness has been found to be higher in athletes as compared to non-athletes, and this held true regardless of the type of sport played. Additionally, children with higher mental toughness were found to be more resilient against stress and depression!

So if you want your children to develop mental toughness, get them involved in sports!

Learn to Manage the Fear of Failure

In her article 5 characteristics of grit, Margaret Perlis talks about having the ability to manage the fear of failure. She also highlights a very important concern which may be an underlying cause for the fear of failure that is on the rise in children:

“the current trend of coddling our youth, by removing competition in sports for example, is preventing some kids from actually learning how to fail and to embrace it as an inevitable part of life. In our effort to protect our kids from disappointment are we inadvertently harming them?” – Forbes.

To overcome this, she quotes Eleanor Roosevelt: “do something that scares you everyday”, because if courage is like a muscle, it will get stronger following this daily exercise regime.

Practicing Sisu

What is Sisu? It is a Finnish phrase that refers to extraordinary determination, courage, and resoluteness in the face of extreme adversity.

Sisu contributes to an “action mindset”, a consistent and courageous approach toward challenges that enables individuals to see beyond their present limitations and into what might be.

Image Source: Pinterest


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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