The Transformational Power of Grit
by Sherry Slejska | January 9. 2021
“Dedicated to the wonderful women & John in my peer support group!”
Few words can describe the character of someone who survives great hardship and then embarks on a transformational journey of personal discovery. Perhaps grit might be one of those words.
We make heroes of the famed professional athletes pursuing their own story of greatness. We find powerful inspiration in their blood, sweat, tears, and triumph. We cheer from the sidelines for the underdog in a dog eat dog arena. In fact, if you were to place a wager, it would be the underdog who has the greatest payout. They learn more, do more, work harder, become more resilient and embrace self compassion when they fall short. And when they fail, they get back up and try again.
It’s the metamorphosis of the wounded, disabled, persecuted, victimized, and disadvantaged that inspires radical change for others. These are the places grit is born and grows and becomes infectious.
Michael Jordan was cut from his highschool basketball team; he went on to become one of the NBA’s all-time best athletes. Bethany Hamilton lost her arm to a shark attack; with one arm, she became a pro surfer. Micheal Phelps suffered from ADHD and has 8 Olympic gold medals to his credit for swimming. Kieran Behan lived through life-threatening cancer and a severe brain injury; he qualified for the 2012
Olympic games in London.1 These athletes are legendary because of the grit they demonstrated to persevere through their pain, fears and adversity. The world draws on their stories to find inspiration and hope.
What about Adela who lost her right leg to cancer when she was only 10 years old? She is now a nurse in Toronto and helps others journey through cancer treatment. Arden came to Canada as a refugee when he was 12. He had seen atrocities beyond words and experienced homelessness and hunger. He embraced every opportunity to integrate into his new country; overcoming cultural, language, and financial barriers. He presently works as a software engineer and has a wife, two children, and a home in Mississauga, Ontario. Nadia would sleep in her closet to hide from her abuser. She fled to the streets and became a heroin addict to numb the pain from her past. To pay for her addiction she prostituted herself. Today, she is clean. She works as an addiction counselor helping others confront their pain and be released from their addictions.
These are inspiring stories but let’s face it, we rarely hear the word, grit, used to describe seemingly average people who have faced extraordinary adversity. It’s when Stuart wakes up each day and gets out of bed as depression weighs down on him and he feels like he’d rather die. It’s when Nguyen had the courage to walk away from an abusive relationship. It’s when Marco rejects the negative stories his head tells him which are untrue. It’s when Mela consciously pauses, allowing powerful emotions to pass through her before responding. It’s when I resist the intense desire to overreact and accept that my brain sometimes malfunctions as a result of a traumatic past. It’s when we turn inward to confront feelings like guilt and shame; releasing them and finding a lightness and freedom for the first time ever. These are the places grit resides.
“Some say you need to stand on top of the world to accomplish greatness when really you just need to stand on top of your own fears.” - Ray Slejska
It’s our own courageous human struggles as we face fears and take on challenging emotional and physical pain that can help us find our grit and become a beacon of inspiration for others. Grit is defined as the firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.2 Angela Duckworth, psychologist and author of, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance explains that grit is a mental toughness that helps you persevere even in the face of obstacles.3
When we face our hardships and not deny or run from them, we nurture our own mental toughness and grit. Our failures and imperfections provide rich knowledge and wisdom to support the development of courage, conscientiousness, perseverance, resilience, and passion; the essential ingredients of grit.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.” (Winston Churchill)
“Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals,” says Duckworth. Imagine what it might be like to embrace this next quote? “Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality.”4 It allows you and your circumstances to be less than ideal right now. It opens up the idea that your present challenge is part of this gritty journey that you are on, but not all of it. Now, are you starting to see the
transformational power of grit?