Desire, Will, and Morality: The Holy Trinity of Grit


My friend, bestie, twin and fellow homeschool mom, Evelyn was teaching our boys a portion of a high school writing course, One Year Adventure Novel.  This particular lesson was “someone to care about” which is generally the hero.  As I was sitting there watching the lesson and doing my duty as the TA/Lunch Lady, I saw the three elements of a hero we care about evolve on the whiteboard.  Desire, will, and morality are the three things we need to give to our heroes in stories. What makes them keep going in the face of danger? What give them determination and strength? What makes them relatable. We need to make them realistic and someone we relate to so we want to finish the story.  After all, why would we continue to watch shows like The Walking Dead if the hero’s weren’t like us?

As Evelyn wrote those three words on the white board, I was contemplating the subject of my next post, then the bulb lit up over my head. This holy trinity of words bring together the idea of grit- firmness of mind or spirit unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).  So, let’s examine each one and how they play into each other and form grit.


Desire is something we want or long for in life.  It’s a conscious yearning that propels us to take action and obtain the object of our desire.  Do you want to be a martial artist? The desire to train will propel you through the door of some school, put you in a gi, and on the mats.  Desire will justify what you will spend on gear, training, and other accoutrements.  Desire will eventually grow into passion given enough time, energy, and practice.

Will is one’s control over one’s own emotions and actions.  Once you’ve entered into what you desire, your will must kick in to keep you coming back, to push through the failures and hard moments.  Desire and will interplay and begin forming grit in a person’s psyche.  The desire to do something, coupled with the will to see it through helps us to not give up easily.  It takes strength of character to accept all that comes with trying a new thing and do it anyway, no matter how many times you fall on your backside.

Morality slides in from the side to glue desire and will together permanently.  It seems like an odd fellow in this group of concepts, but it is absolutely necessary to keep the whole shebang together.  Morality, in this sense, is one’s virtue, or code of ethics.  The difference between posers and the real thing is morality.  Both sets of people have desire and will, but morality? Not so much.  Morality will keep a person honest.  In other words, if a person of grit says they’re going to do something, they will.  A poser will say they’ll do something, but never show up because they lack the courage.

When installed, desire, will, and morality come together in an unbreakable bond.  They will move you forward and keep you going until you reach your goal.  Grit, much like the other kind (sand and gravel), is tough and strong withstanding the worst storms in life.  If you’re having trouble staying motivated, I suggest a systems check.  Is your morality wavering? Reassess what you believe and why.  Is your desire waning? What is it you believe about yourself and your activity?  And finally, is your will weakening? Confirm your goals to yourself thereby recommitting to see it through.

Be the person who does hard things.


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