Updated: Feb 4, 2019
Any type of rewarding accomplishment is naturally challenging. It takes substantial initiative as well as sacrifice, sometimes over a considerable amount of time. In essence, it takes grit.
I have been thinking about “grit” quite a lot lately as at least two of my clients have made successful (yet complex) transitions from pain and desperation to a new life of possibilities. What made it possible for these two clients to reach their goals while so many others could not?
I realized that both individuals had a certain amount of grit and enough of it to make the switch from the life they had to the life they wished for.
So, what is grit?
What are some of the elements of it? When you google “grit”, you will find two words that are often mentioned together – perseverance and passion.
I think instinct is the key components of grit.
Intuition or instinct is often dismissed in our culture in favor of reason and logic. It is no wonder that instinct is dismissed as a “hunch”, a “funny feeling”, or a simple “gut reaction”. But when we use words like savvy, aptitude, and talent to define natural impulses and instinct, we enter into an entirely different territory.
From the many definitions of “instinct”, I favor the one that defines instinct as “a powerful motivation or impulse” essential to our achieving of our goals. While nobody acts purely on instinct 100% of the time, most of us make more optimal decisions when we fully engage our impulses as powerful motivations in our lives.
The second component of grit is resilience.
Resilience is about how we react to adversity, trouble, or hardship. It is about our capacity to be boosted by our challenges and obstacles. From its Latin roots, the word means “power of rebounding”. I absolutely love the sentiments behind the concept of resilience. I see a lot of love and power in our ability to recover from depression, adversity, or illness.
My favorite definition of resilience is “the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc. after being bent, compressed, or stretched.”
With my two clients, we carefully explored the not-so-obvious benefits of being stretched by their specific circumstances. In both cases, the individuals’ newfound belief in the power of rebounding allowed them to recoil from their particular challenges. Resilient people not only return to the original form, but they add something new to the mix that further enhances their inner strength and durability. That is vital to grit.
A third key component of grit is perseverance.
It suggests activity maintained in spite of difficulty. Some of its synonyms include dedication, tenacity and endurance. An individual who is apathetic, indifferent, or simply lazy will have a very hard time achieving their goal and more inclined to throw in the towel when the going gets tough.
We often think about perseverance in the context of great discoveries, breakthrough developments, or scientific advancements. My two clients are not world-class scientists or adventurers. They are everyday people who had previously persevered in often very difficult circumstances in their lives.
Our work focused on helping them to regain their endurance. Their most recent obstacles served as an illustration for how and when on their journey they became apathetic or indifferent. Once understood that apathy, an energetic obstacle to a better life, must be replaced with care, concern, and passion. Perseverance is about saying to yourself, “Let’s try it again, one more time”, as well as creating a new vision for your journey.
Both of my clients ultimately successfully zeroed in on their new visions, which now excluded certain people and perceptions that no longer served them on their personal paths. It was not at all easy and they had to work hard at the edges of their abilities. Some days it felt like what Martha Graham, the dancer, called “daily small deaths”. New visions and goals became achievable because the clients maintained their determination in spite of, or perhaps because of, the difficulty.
So far, we took a look at instinct, resilience, and perseverance as key elements of grit. To me, all three concepts point out a certain quality of grit that lies in being spirited, daring, courageous, creative, and resourceful.
My clients initially had just enough grit - good instinct, a certain amount of resilience and perseverance - to realize that they could do more with it. I am not sure that they knew exactly what they were seeking for, but ultimately they arrived at the full essence of grit, i.e. personal growth or development.
Grit is growth.
Personal growth is a form of advancement, improvement, and maturation. Moreover, it is a tendency to seek and consider different strategies and points of view. Being open to new possibilities and ways of looking at things is critical to our success.
Personal growth requires our propensity to rise above the immediate circumstances with courage and boldness, as well as to look for new ways to enhance our life experience.
It requires grit.