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I tried out for the softball team in sixth grade and made it. I had an eye for pitching, but my hitting, well, it was lousy. I believed I was lousy. 

After one practice that spring, where I hit absolutely nothing that came my way, I went home mumbling under my breath. At dinner I told my parents that I was quitting the team; softball was too hard. I was lousy at it. 

My parents pretty much supported anything my sister and I wanted to explore, so to have my dad say, “no, you’re not quitting,” came as a sharp surprise.

His stern response only served to deepen my mood of malaise. After I finished the season out, “and only then,” he said, could quit softball for good and that he and mom would support me doing something else.  A clear end date and the recognition that I had a choice (just not the one I wanted at that moment), helped me settle my mood. I didn’t like it, but realized I’d have to stick the season out. I’d have to Do The Hard Thing.  

So why write about Jr High softball and sticking it out now—in winter, in the middle of my life, at the start of a new year?  Because of the longstanding impact doing The Hard Thing had on me. And what it can do for you today. 

From that moment at the dinner table on, ‘he wouldn’t let me quit,’ became a regular refrain in my head when life got hard. Like when I chose to go back to grad school in psychology full time while working full time. When my rocky first marriage was tanking. Later when I was working my tail off actively building my business.  

The Do The Hard Thing lesson has stayed with me, buoying me when I wanted to quit, focusing my gaze on what was important to me.

Do the Hard Thing taught me  

  • I had a choice  
  • I was accountable for my choice whatever it was 
  • I wouldn’t actually die from doing something difficult  
  • I could learn 
  • I wasn’t lousy 

Today we call it grit. It’s essential to anyone who wants to live a bold, fully engaged life, or to develop their work in ways that matter most, or to leave a legacy of contribution. 

 

What is grit?  

Grit is a firmness of mind or spirit, that quality that’s unyielding in the face of hardship or danger. It’s the stick-to-itiveness that wins the game, secures the prize, and draws us into ever greater, grittier opportunities.  

At the core, grit is about tapping into the energies of your passion and connecting them with what you care about, your purpose or “ikigai,” the Japanese term for “that which I wake up for.” And then being willing to practice, practice, practice.  

Psychologist Angela Duckworth defines grit as a combination of “passion and perseverance for achieving long-term goals.” Passion she defines as falling in love with something and staying in love. The perseverance of grit, she says, “is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” For her, grit is the real key to why some people succeed and others don’t.  

Personally I like Merriam Webster’s definition of grit: ‘an indomitable spirit,” which one of my clients has often said is essential ‘to getting most juice for the squeeze.” 

 What difference can grit make in Your daily life?  

To have grit is to fully immerse yourself, on purpose and eyes-wide-open, with life. To be mindful of the moment and courageously engage with The Hard Thing, whether playing softball or learning new software, grows hardiness and resilience, an ability to bounce back from hardship and to take on new challenges with aplomb.  

By being vulnerable to try something and risk failing, as I did on the softball field, you’ll stretch our limits; it’s in the practice of returning to try again and again that produces grit.

On superficial glance it might be easy to cast grit and mindfulness as polar opposites– if grit is about going for the gold and mindfulness simply about the chill. 

True enough, to those hooked on achievement adrenaline mindfulness about anything might seem like a colossal waste of valuable time. Yet, it’s in committing to something that you care deeply about and practicing that something with intention and heart that is the very essence of living a gritty life.  

In Duckworth’s book, Grit, the distinguishing quality of star performers in their respective fields was not necessarily talent at all, but their exceptional commitment to ambitions and goals.

In fact, she concluded, that “to the extent that challenge is higher for individuals of modest ability, grit may matter more, not less.”  

Do I need more grit? 

Of course! How much do you want this year, 2020, to be a fabulous year? A year that’s full of growth and achievement around what’s most important to you?  Given the daily challenges that we all must tackle, grit is vital for success. Becoming grittier will help.  

Three critical components of grit are passion, perseverance, and practice.  

Passion comes from your intrinsic interest in your craft or whatever impassions you, how it fuels your sense of purpose, and the conviction that your work is meaningful and helpful to others.  

Perseverance is an active form of resilience in the face of adversity and unwavering devotion to continuously improving.  

Practice is just that, keeping at The Hard Thing despite the fact that it’s hard, challenging, and powerful. This practice dispels the importance of external rewards, fame, and success while reinforcing an unrelenting belief in our self and our work, that what we’re up to is significant to the future. It matters.  

Of course, grit alone doesn’t ensure success in any personal, professional or entrepreneurial venture. Growing grit does, however, ensure a steady stream of motivation to continue making progress and to stick to goals despite setbacks or obstacles. 

So, do you need more grit this year?

Check Duckworth’s Grit Scale for yourself, and then reflect on three abilities you’ll need to strengthen your grit:  

Focus your Attention. Learn to focus on one thing at a time so you can go deeply into understanding how to create new pathways for your success. Mediation helps here.  

Drop into you Passion and Purpose. Reflect on something that interests you and make a deliberate choice to immerse yourself in it. Ask yourself these questions: Does it engage me? Does it connect me to my greater purpose?  

Be Willing to Practice with Perseverance. Commit to Do the Hard Thing.  

Stay tuned next time for ways to grow your grit.