There has been lots of talk about "grit" in recent years. It has been studied by researchers, mainly led by Angela Duckworth who defines grit as passion plus perseverance. She admits that it has another characteristic that is a high correlative—purpose. The people I have known with lots of grit have most often been visibly fueled by a sense of purpose—so I like my own equation of grit.
Passion + purpose = perseverance. And perseverance is a great quality to have.
Until you crash. And then you are just stuck, usually. Stuck and trying to recuperate from a situation that took everything you could give it and then that little extra bit of reserved energy you summoned from deep within. And now you are flat, and not sure how to get back up out of the ditch.
I say "you" but really I am referring to my own life. Times when I had the need to keep going, but the flags were all there that I should at least consider taking a break before I collapsed.
Grit is what gets you through a tough semester at college. You dig a little deeper, get through something that seemed insurmountable, and then...Finals. Done for now. A break is waiting, and you can re-group.
And grit grows within you. Yes, Duckworth's research shows that grit increases with age. If you have some, and you keep going, your grit will grow.
But is grit the same as resilience? Researchers have also found that it is NOT the same. Resilience is what lets you dip down into your more vulnerable emotions (worthlessness, sadness, frustration, futility—to name a few). And finding yourself there, in the trenches of your dark side, you don't muscle on. You stop to consider that these dark shadows are part of your make-up.
Part of you.
And when you wrestle with those uncomfortable emotions and the feelings and thoughts that make you face your imperfections (which yes, we all have....and no, we don't all face them, take them on, and reflect on them)...when you stop there, you grow.
You grow in a variety of ways—your growth may not resemble my growth, but you do grow.
And that act of stopping, facing the cold mirror in the dark pond of who you are, of reflecting on what you see there and why you came this way...especially if you can take those reflections out and see the next level of how you are affecting life around you. All of that should, in fact, make you a whole lot more gentle with yourself.
And if you are gentle with yourself, you will be more understanding of others. Offer them the silence they need if they are standing at the edge of their own dark pond. Hold onto their ankles, at times, if they are attempting something self destructive. And hold out the space they need to come to terms with how imperfect life and all of its human forms can be.
Don't be hard on your self, your own self, if you are competent and purposeful and have pushed yourself hard in the direction of your dreams—and now seem to feel the crashing. Don't stop here as if it is a failure--
But let this be a ditch where you grow. Understand that telling yourself this is a new place for self-compassion, patience and reflection is a doorway to growth. Believe that good comes out of these very hard places. And let go of your need to win...or to perform...or to be admired.
And let your journey to resilience (or toward more resilience) give you the inspiration, the PURPOSE, that you need to wrestle here with imperfection.
Win, lose or draw. They all count in the growing garden of resilience.
And once you have resilience, true capacity to engage the valleys of life's walk, you get a bit more grit to go with it. Or maybe an even better gift—the wisdom to know when to hang on and push through with sheer determination and when to quit and spend some time gazing into the dark waters of reflection.
Waiting. Resting. Growing.
I write on how humans develop and grow through challenges we face. I've divided this into three categories--Growing Love is about relationships and how we create conditions for growth despite the inevitable challenges. Cloudburst is about grief, specifically—which is a tricky topic. We need to keep growing but pushing is the opposite of helpful. And in Dancing on Hot Sand I talk about personal inner growth in hard places—spiritual growth, without sounding religious, I hope.