Sometimes It Just Takes Grit

On December 2nd 2014, I had major knee surgery. A total reconstruction: They moved bone, reconstructed ligaments, realigned my knee cap, and added cartilage. Now while they were upfront about how long the recovery would be and what it would entail, there is a big difference between knowing a thing intellectually versus actually experiencing that thing. It turns out my ongoing recovery has required me to use every ounce of my resources: mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually; yet, I still needed something more. It forced me to rely on an under-utilized inner resource that I call Grit.

I imagine Grit as this deep dark sludge at the bottom of the barrel. It’s not pretty. It’s thick and dark and sticky (kind of like Vegamite). Most of the time, it stays at the bottom of the barrel, untouched, and avoided. It’s only brought out when everything else has failed. When you’ve used up everything else at the top of the barrel: you know the good stuff, the nice stuff, the prettier, sweeter smelling stuff that you enjoy using. Grit is the glue that will get the job done when you are out of options.

So, why bother sharing this? Because I think Grit is an undervalued resource in our new land of positive thinking. Because I have seen clients who make great progress, but still have times when they struggle and they can’t figure out why. They question themselves. Why do they find themselves again in old routines, using less adaptive coping skills or feeling bad? They want to know, “What am I doing wrong?” and “Why is it still so hard?” “Why aren’t my new skills working?”

Why? Because we are human. As my teacher Dr. Tal Ben Shahar would say, “Unless you are a Psyopath or Dead, you are going to have bad days, negative thoughts, or moments of depression or unhappiness.” That is what it is to be human and to be alive. All the tools in the world will not save you from your life experience. All the tools in the world will not put you in a permanent state of happiness. Nor should they. As Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas Deiner point out in their book, The Upside of Your Dark Side, it is this quest for constant comfort that is detrimental to our overall happiness. Only by embracing both our positive and negative emotions will we live a full life. Our coping skills and positive strategies help us get through our challenges, but they don’t make us immune to them. And sometimes, frankly they just aren’t enough.

Sometimes it just takes Grit. Sometimes despite all your “fancy” new skills and knowledge, all of your positive interventions and desire to look on the bright side, what you really need to do is dig deep down inside of yourself and muster up all that is left in order to throw yourself through that challenge; To push on forward, To keep on going, Perhaps by sheer will and determination. It is in this dark sludgy gritty place that you know you can do it. That you realize it won't last forever. That you know, it is no longer about finding the easy way out, but it is about finding the only way out. You know you just have to do it. And somehow in this dark place, is where Courage and Empowerment erupt. When you are at the end of your resources and feel that you have nothing else to give, finding your Grit will see you through.

Here’s to Grit.