As I was sitting down to write this week’s blog, it occurred to me that not many of my articles are about naturopathic medicine (LOL). This week is not going to be much different. There is a theme that I think is emerging and likely reflective of where I am in my life at the moment.
I was listening to a replay of my FAVORITE PODCAST EVER!! Stephen Dubner’s “Freakonomics” segment on “How to Get More Grit in Your Life”. I reflected on some of the topics covered since the launch of our website last year: Laughter, cold exposure, money, Earthships, Winston Churchill (random, I know!) … and in each case, we witness examples of how to adapt to the elements, hardship, pain, crises of identity and a pandemic. I realized that in each case we persevere, we learn how to dance that fine line between self-control and surrender, we accept that hard things are hard. At a time when it seems impossible to remain buoyant, optimistic, patient, and kind, when every day is a grind, when you just can’t take it another minute, GRIT might be just what we need to get through this next chapter in our collective suffering.
So, what is grit and why do we care about it? Angela Duckworth, academic, psychologist and researcher, would tell you that grit is a “passion and perseverance for especially long-term goals”. What she will also tell you is that like any other skill, grit is not necessarily innate; we can learn to cultivate it in ourselves and in those that we care about. Her research focuses on two traits that predict achievement: the ability to sustain interest and effort toward long term goals (grit) and the voluntary regulation of impulses in the presence of temptations that keep us distracted from that goal (self-control). The two, she found, are not mutually exclusive. You can have grit and no self-control and you can be the most regulated person out there and have zero grit.
We often conflate success with genius. Certain folks with intellectual/physical gifts are perceived, or are assumed to, far excel the rest of us. As if by destiny, the sole reason for their achievement seems to be their natural ability alone. Angela Duckworth re-defines genius as greatness earned, greatness that is effortful and thus something that is accomplished as opposed to something that is given.
We all have a list of our favorite geniuses: Mozart, Einstein, Michael Jordan or The Beatles. These folks did not get to where they are by talent alone. The book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell describes the 10,000-hour threshold one needs to reach before achieving mastery over a specific task. This was a contentious issue and prompted researchers to ‘debunk’ the 10,000 hour ‘myth’. While 10,000 hours is not the ONLY factor that determines mastery, I am sure we can all agree that diligence, practice and, I dare say, GRIT are essential to overcoming obstacles/temptations that get in the way of our goals.
SO, where does this leave us? In the words of Ashley White in the film Spellbound, a documentary following 8 competitors in the 1999 Scipps National Spelling Bee, “I’ve had trials and I’ve had tribulations and I have overcome”. She was 13.
Take a tour of Angela Duckworth’s website and find out your ‘Grit Score’
Click this link to listen to Stephen Dubner’s interview with Angela Duckworth