Blog Post
04.08.2017

10 ways to discover if you have true grit

Grit. What is it and what does it mean to you? Staying power? Yep. Self-belief? You bet. Tenacity, ambition, passion? Check.

These are all traits that astronauts have. So what can we learn from astronauts’ true grit to help us achieve our own goals right here on Earth?

Dennis Charney of the Icahn School of Medicine and Steven Southwick of the Yale School of Medicine have come up with a 10-step ‘prescription’ of must-haves for anyone that wants to start building their reserves of grit. Let’s see how astronauts put these 10 steps to use. How many of these do you excel in?

1. Ability to face fear

There’s no two ways about it – space travel is not for the faint-hearted. In the rare instances when things have gone wrong up there, it’s been essential that astronauts keep their cool and think things through. We all know Neil Armstrong’s phrase, “The Eagle has landed”. What you may not know is that the Eagle (the moon landing craft) was nearly out of gas. It’s estimated that there was only 30 seconds’ worth of fuel left  – but Armstrong kept his head and made sure he carried out the correct manoeuvres to land safe and sound.

2. Having a moral compass

A strong sense of right and wrong can help us pull through the most challenging situations. Even hundreds of miles above Earth, astronauts stay grounded with a firm set of principles and the knowledge that their work could help to make our planet a better place.

3. Have faith

Astronauts aren’t the only ones involved in spaceflight. Standing behind them are hundreds of engineers, designers, and mission controllers. Everyone has to be trusted. You can’t fly to space if you don’t believe that every single member of a team, no matter how big or small their role, has done their job to the best of their ability.

4. Use social support

No-one goes to space alone. In an environment where you’ll spend long periods of time cooped up with others, cooperation and communication skills are vital . Special training in teamwork is a core part of NASA’s training curriculum.

5. Having good role models

Anyone with their eyes set on the stars couldn’t ask for better role models than all the space pioneers that have gone before. From Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, through to Guion Bluford, the first African American astronaut, along with all the hundreds of other pioneers and visionaries, the list is a long and inspiring one. And of course we all have personal role models closer to home, such as friends and family.

6. Being physically fit

This one’s a no-brainer: you need to be in tip-top shape if you’re going to space. A few of the stresses that astronauts’ bodies have to cope with are loss of muscle mass due to microgravity, higher blood pressure, and weakened bones. Regular exercise is needed to mitigate all of these. Closer to home, regular exercise has been proved time and time again to be one of the best ways to combat depression and anxiety.

7. Keeping your brain challenged

Astronauts certainly aren’t short of regular brain challenges. Spaceflight brings its own unique tests. Some studies have found that certain basic brain functions, such as problem solving and attention span, actually work less well in space. Why? It could be something to do with the reduced physical activity when in space, and the effect of microgravity on blood flow.

8. Having cognitive and emotional flexibility

Again, this is a vital part of any astronaut’s skill set. Think about what it takes to spend up to six months living in very close quarters with other people. Give and take is key. Astronauts have to be aware of others’ moods and emotions. Only by working effectively as a team can they achieve all they set out to do.

9. Having meaning, purpose and growth in life

For anyone that’s been to space, their journey often starts in childhood, gazing at the stars. Having a purpose, a core goal to work towards, can be one of the best motivators in life. You may not want to be an astronaut, but we bet you have your own set of life goals.

10. Realistic optimism

As veteran space traveller Chris Hadfield puts it: “One of the things we say in the cockpit all the time is, “What’s the next thing that’s going to kill us?” This may sound like the weirdest form of optimism imaginable, but in fact it’s all about harnessing the power of negative thinking and turning it to your advantage. By planning for every conceivable scenario and expecting the unexpected, Chris and his fellow astronauts knew that they were as prepared as they could be. They felt confident they could cope, no matter what faced them. And when you come down to it, isn’t that what true grit is all about?

Still wondering if you have true grit? Find out where you stand on this grit scale!