When I left you last week, I was standing in the basement of my 200-year-old house, with water falling through the floorboards after a pipe above my dining room ceiling burst.
Waves of panic, fear, and anxiety rose as rapidly as the water dancing around my ankles. A decision is required, but which path I would choose was anybody’s guess.
On the one hand, I could choose the well-trod path of “this shouldn’t be happening to me” or “why do things like this always happen to me.”
And after decades of choosing this type of reactionary, poor-pitiful-me response to the shitshow that can be life, I naturally leaned in that direction.
It’s not a mystery why I leaned toward the old, broken tools in my bag of tricks. I had nothing to replace them with.
Despite a lot of good intentions, I’d realized that all the “feel good, happy-place, mantra-chanting” in the world didn’t move the needle when the crap began to flow.
In the face of life’s challenges, is it possible to look for the gift and the opportunity in a situation? Could I trade drama and self-pity for the possibility of personal growth? Could the Sage (wise, empathetic, intuitive, focused) side of my mind take the lead rather than the side of my mind determined to sabotage and destroy?
No bushes burned. No lights glowed, and no angle choirs sang.
But things changed when I consciously and actively leveraged the Sage side of my brain. The change was subtle, quiet, and entirely inside my head. My perspective shifted ever so slightly, and things around me were different. And, as a result, with my feet wet and my heart thumping, I decided to put these ideas to the test.
I am not a spring chicken if you’re new to these pages. I’ve been around the block a few times, made many mistakes, learned a lot from them, and tried my darndest to be the best person possible.
I constantly read and listen to authors, teachers, gurus, saints, and sinners on my journey to be slightly better today than yesterday. I was asked a few years ago by a therapist who, reflecting on the dark places my journey brought me through, asked, “how do you keep going?”
I didn’t have much of an answer except to say that forward motion beats the alternative.
Then I was introduced to the book, “Grit” by Angela Duckworth, and I discovered new ways to answer that question.
According to Angela Duckworth, grit is the combination of passion and perseverance in pursuit of long-term goals. In her book, she argues that grit is a better predictor of success than intelligence or talent and that it can be developed through intentional effort and the cultivation of a growth mindset.
So, what exactly is grit, and how does it impact our lives and careers?
At its core, grit is maintaining motivation and interest in a task, even in the face of difficulty or failure. It is the persistence to push through obstacles and setbacks to pursue a long-term goal.
But why is grit so important? It allows us to persevere through challenges and setbacks and continue moving toward our goals even when the going gets tough. It gives us the determination to keep working towards our dreams, even when the odds are against us.
The good news is that grit can be developed. There are strategies for building grit, including setting specific, long-term goals and creating a plan for reaching those goals, embracing challenges and viewing failures as opportunities for growth, and practicing, both deliberate and focused. Additionally, a supportive and encouraging environment can play a crucial role in helping individuals develop and maintain grit.
In my coaching work with clients, I create this supportive and encouraging environment where clients can connect with big dreams and make plans to realize those goals.
I’m doing that very thing too. Every day, I am hammering out the life of my dreams, and, despite setbacks and challenges (burst pipes and flooded basements included), grit allows me to stay connected with my plans.
Recently I read a quote from a letter penned by Beethoven in 1802. With his health failing, plagued by fevers and dysentery, crippled by headaches, twisted by a broken heart, and losing his hearing, he wrote,
“…so I prolonged this wretched existence…I hope my determination will remain firm to endure until…the end. Perhaps I shall get better, perhaps not; I am ready.”
Beethoven did not take his life as he had earlier contemplated. He went on to write his Fur Elise, Piano Concerto no.5, eight of his nine symphonies, and hundreds of other masterful creations.
My superpower in life might be grit.
My choice, made with wet feet and growing anxiety, was to lean into the wise, empathic, gentle, and purposeful side of my brain and actively look for the gifts and opportunities in my current situation.
So far, the plumber has repaired the burst pipe (yay, I have the use of the main bathroom again) but left a big hole in my dining room ceiling. The insurance adjuster is due sometime this week, and while I wait, more wallpaper peals off the walls.
Do I wish that pipe hadn’t burst? Yes.
Am I more at peace in the rupture aftermath than ever imagined possible? Yep.
Do I have grit? It seems to be the case. Am I actively building my state of mental fitness every day? Oh, yes.
Is this chapter in my life supporting my goal to become 1% better every day? It seems to be the case, but I’ll let you decide.
If you’d like to learn more about “Grit,” pick up a copy of Ms. Duckworth’s book.
If you’d like to learn more about mental fitness, use this link to schedule time for a conversation that might help you on your journey to greater peace, productivity, and better relationships at work and home.