Grit N’ Grind

resilient-plant“He’s here again,” you sigh.

Playing pickup basketball, there is always that tough as nails defender. He is relentless, contesting every passing lane. Playing to the whistle’s echo, his grit — more than his physical talent — frustrates you into submission.

Grit, though, is more than nabbing every carom or fighting through those bulldozing picks; it is persevering through life’s stumbles and, yes, self-inflicted wounds. According to a U.S. Department of Education report, grit is just as important as intellectual ability for success.

But if grit is so important — and it is, can we learn how to be more resilient in the face of crushing adversity?

My supposition: We can. And in order to persevere through life’s hardships, we have to.

Life humbles and, at times, humiliates. Remember that sinking feeling when you bombed that all-important final exam? What about that gnawing pit in your stomach when your beloved aunt passed? And don’t forget that broken heart when your first love dumped you.

Life has more twists and turns than a Six Flags ride. While elementary schools
emphasize — understandably so — reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic, our educators should prioritize another r-word: resiliency. In our increasingly complex society, fortitude — that internal grit — to overcome obstacles is more relevant than that Shakespeare lesson.

And just like Shakespeare, the concepts of grit and perseverance confound. How do we — educators, leaders, society — conceptualize grit, tenacity, and perseverance? Like any skill, grit is learned through repetition and external support.

Think of the obstacles you have faced — and overcame — to achieve your educational and career goals: challenging courses, grueling interviews, personal doubts. When striving for that professional degree or coveted promotion, you knew setbacks were inevitable. But observing high-achieving parents or mentors, you developed the psychological mettle — the resilience — to strive and achieve your goals.

As mental health consumers, we have a personal relationship with grit and its cousins, perseverance and tenacity. Managing depression, anxiety, or any related mind health condition, we ooze grit — even if we casually dismiss our own perseverance. Many of us have battled mental health issues for years — even decades. Despite those internal battles, we are loving spouses, loyal siblings, and reliable employees. We draw on our resilience to grit and grind (and, I hope, grin) our way through a depressive day.

More importantly, we are models for others. As mentioned earlier, grit is learned through repetition and a supportive environment. With our lived experience, we exemplify grit’s core tenets — i.e. through our own effort and resilience, we have the resolve to manage mental health’s ebbs and flows.

And stand up to life’s bulldozing picks.

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