I recently have been hearing the word GRIT a little more, maybe because I have become a little preoccupied with learning more about it, the lack of it, and how to build it up in my kids. When the movie True Grit came out in 2010, I remember thinking that if you lived in those days in those circumstances you just had to have grit to survive. I have always noticed that although smart people excel often, those who have the gift of grit get the job done and often rise above those who surpass them in IQ. The stories of Finding Nemo and Finding Dory keep coming to mind. I know when I personally face challenges, this little voice of Ellen DeGeneres offers me a chuckle, singing, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”
Similarly, in the Disney movie Meet the Robinsons, Lewis had a dream, courage, lots of failures, resilience, and the attitude “just keep moving forward.”
What exactly is grit? It’s courage and resolve; strength of character. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, grit in the context of behavior is defined as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.” There are many character traits that makeup the sum of grit. Those who have grit, have really become today’s heroes. We know it when we see it. Aristotle believed that tenacity and persistence were the most valued virtues. What exactly makes up a gritty person? Take a look at the Apostles and that is one clue. Jesus picked imperfect people, taught them, loved them, built them up, then told them the harsh truths of suffering to come, instilled the love of excellence, and the passion to persevere for the long-term goal: to be with Him again in Heaven.
Angela Duckworth was given a Genius Grant of $650,000 to continue her research on the topic of grit. Duckworth discusses her vision of grit on this popular TED talk video. Although I agree with much of what she states, I think that there is one problem with her version of the definition. She says that grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Although I agree with much of what she says, I do not think that children who have grit are necessarily thinking very long term. To them, long-term might be to the end of the semester. For some kids a long-term goal could be til the end of football practice today. Grit is more of an attitude than an ultimate goal. Lack of follow-through is common in so many adults and children. The good news is that we are not stuck in any one place or mindset. We have the ability to learn, grow, and change our mindset.
So what makes up a gritty person? Gritty people are optimistic and hopeful about their own future. That’s why they work hard to change their personal outcomes, as well as change their environment. If you can tap into your tenacity, you are one step closer to controlling it. If you encourage this tenacity in your children, you might be able to build it up, and ignite it. Once you have some positive outcomes, this grit can grow and develop all the characteristics that make up a gritty person: Courage, Conscientiousness, Resilience, and an attitude of Excellence.
I started off as the very slowest person on the swim team at age 11. It was quite a sad day when in my first swim meet I was not able to even earn one ribbon. By the second swim meet I believe I earned one 4th-place ribbon. My mom approached me and gave me this bit of advice that has forever affected me. She said, “Marya, why don’t you just focus on beating the next slowest swimmer.” I took the challenge. Her name was Kristine. It didn’t take much time to become faster than her. Since she was slow, and somewhat unmotivated, she didn’t realize that my goal was to beat her. By the next meet I was faster than her. I kept choosing the next slowest swimmer to pick off. By the end of the following summer I was the fastest girl on the team. By the beginning of high school, I was always sought after by any relay team, and by the end of my high-school years I had set league records and gone to the Junior Olympics.
How did that happen? I don’t think that I am particularly built especially for the sport, but by working and training my body adapted. I never cut corners on workouts like the other kids. When the coach wasn’t looking they would turn around in their lane, and head back to the wall. I finished each and every exercise. I was given a pace partner who also didn’t cut any corners. Having a buddy certainly didn’t hurt. When I think about the outdoor early morning workouts from 5-7am in February when the snow was capping the mountains and my body was shaking from the cold, I wonder how I ever did it. I think back on the long hours, the long races, the early mornings, the long meets in the blazing heat, and wonder how I endured it all. My long-term goals were medals and trophies. I was definitely motivated by those. In my sophomore year of high school I received the MVP trophy for swimming.
In addition, I played piano since the age of 8. I was motivated by the love of classical music. I was motivated to be able to hear it over and over by my own making, instead of waiting for my mom to borrow a record from the library. Then I was motivated by parents who insisted on a certain number of hours of practice. It took courage to play in front of others. I was motivated to not keep the talent for myself, but to share the beauty, and change my environment. It definitely required tenacity.
All the things that I have successfully navigated in life took dedication, suffering, and perseverance despite the uphill battles. Someone with grit is not satisfied on being just dependable, they go above and beyond and reach for gold. Grit must have a purpose. In a well-formed person, this purpose will be prayed about in advance. The desire will come from God, and the ability to achieve it will also be given by God.
Pray for your purpose, and the desire to overcome the obstacles that stand between you and attaining the excellence of your end-game result.
Copyright 2017 Marya Jauregui