I have to admit, I love inspirational stories and movies. It’s the hero in me trying to emerge through another’s story of resistance, acceptance, trial, frustration and finally, glorious victory. Even though, I know what is going to happen, I let myself go and ride the emotional rollercoaster along with my favorite characters as I relate to their doubt and fear they must face to reach their goals. I yell at them for their stubborn resistance, cheer for them as they make the choice to go against the grain, become inspired by the synchronicity of events laid out before them. I believe in them as they battle through hardships and cry tears of triumph as the final scenes of the story are played out. Fortunately for my friends and family, I keep this all internalized so as not to scare them.
It’s the hero’s journey played out again and again in human myths since the beginning of time. The inevitable question comes to my mind, why not me? Why don’t I keep going in the face of struggles and seeming catastrophes? Two immediate thoughts come to mind; the first is one of skepticism, these stories are not real or they are extraordinary people that are more gifted than I. It’s a “sappy” point of view. The other is more encouraging, dig up a little faith for yourself and be your own hero. It’s then “sand” I need to push through the tough times. The hero’s story is universal and it is the story itself that gives us the courage, perseverance, and sometimes, blind faith to make choices that to others appears irrational.
Do we have to be born a John Wayne type character or can we acquire his example of grittiness to stick with the program? How do we cultivate this cowboy image of toughness and solidarity within ourselves? It is at the very moment of perceived failure that this amazing quality has the ability to get us back on track of our Kuzala and guess what? Grit can be learned. You do not have to be born with an innate ability to pull yourself up by your boot straps and press on through every imaginable hardship with superhero strength and determination. Angela Lee Duckworth, psychologist and popular science author wrote Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Where she provides simple wisdom to grow our “stick-to it-ness”. Duckworth is featured in Ted Talks, National Geographic, and Freakonomics Radio to name a few.
Duckworth defines grit as “passion and perseverance for especially long term goals”. In her book and subsequent interviews she outlines ways we can all cultivate more grit into our lives. Her basic outline includes:
Have a hankering – This is the idea that does not go away; it gnaws at us when we try to ignore it, and encourages us when we follow the passion. Interests change and become more developed over time and experience. It is not letting go of passing fancies, then berating ourselves for not following through.
Become a dabster. Every idea requires education, training and practice. When we set out to accomplish something or learn a new skill, it can be invigorating as we take the first steps towards our goal. Unfortunately over time, the practice can become tiresome, frustrating and aggravating; the practice of perseverance at its core.
Fix your flint and curry the kinks out. How is your goal going to benefit others? When our goals give back to our world or to humanity, they become richer which provides more of the staying power we are looking to cultivate. Even if you want to be a champion golfer, how do you connect this goal with others? Do you coach, inspire, or be an example to others?
Know that things will “pan out” and you got the “sand” to follow through to the end. Hope is the power to get us over the mountains, through the trenches and across the rivers to “the promised land”. It inspires us to tap into our best selves and dig deep for the strength to keep at it.
In my experience, it takes all four actions in equal measure to increase Grit. If one falls off, the operation moves along like a three legged horse. I struggle mostly with hope as I allow the more sinister, sabotaging mindset to take the lead. Knowing my problem areas allows me to “heave in a sight” and “hang on to my fiddle”. What you are “pinning away for” is closer than you think.