The personal quality of resilience is often touted by teachers, professors, and other educators as one of the most important things their students can develop.
It is also seen as a predicator more important than intelligence, general health, confidence, or conventional attractiveness when it comes to predicting success -overall as well as when tackling individual projects.
Grit can be difficult to define, so examples are often given. These examples are usually physical feats – the difference between a sprint and a marathon, for example.
However, the successful sprinter has grit as well, the determination and perseverance to get up early every day, to eat a perfectly balanced diet, and to put their whole heart into every training session.
This shows us that grit can mean different specific things for different people, but whatever the specifics are for the individual grit can be generally boiled down into one sentiment
Grit is the ability to persevere in the face of adversity, challenges, boredom, pain. Grit is to value the long-term goal over temporary but present discomfort, whether that discomfort is of aching legs and burning lungs or the logistical discomfort of waking up at 4am.
Resilience is related to grit, but it isn’t the same thing. Grit is the drive and the passion to do the hard things that are required to succeed in the long-term goal regardless of the challenges.
Resilience is more like the ability to manage those challenges.
If grit is the acceptance of waking up at 4 am in order to achieve some future success; resilience is the act of setting out clothes the night before, of setting multiple alarms, of doing it again the next day even though you are just so tired.
Resilience also refers to the ability to bounce back from failures or challenges. To continue using the running metaphor – think about how many people want to run a marathon, and then think about how many of them quit.
When they look up training schedules or apps and find that they are expensive, a non-resilient person may justify not trying with ‘it’s too expensive’ whereas a resilient person will think ‘maybe there are free plans’ and seek them out.
Injuries like stress fractures and plantar fasciitis are common with runners. A non-resilient person may give up running wen they discover that they have an injury, a resilient person however will not only take steps to prevent getting injured but incorporate their recovery into their training.
Aspects of Grit and Resilience
There are four identifiable aspects of grit and resilience. Each is found in differing levels in everyone – and all can be found and developed even if you think they aren’t present in you.
This might seem not relevant to grit or resilience, but in order to make use of grit and resilience then there must be passion somewhere in the equation.
This doesn’t mean that in order to finish an essay for your least favourite subject you need to develop a passion for it. Because let’s be honest here, you probably aren’t ever going to love it. However, you may well be passionate about wanting to work in X field, and X field requires a high school diploma. So, finishing the essay isn’t about the essay – it is about what you want to be doing in ten years.
No one climbs Mount Kilimanjaro without a deep passionate desire to see the top, to achieve the climb, or just to prove to themselves that they can.
Passion, whether it is about the task at hand or the thing that task will help you accomplish – bringing your focus back to your passion is the best way to develop grit and resilience.
Closely related to the overall concept of resilience, perseverance is the thing that makes you try again when you fall off the wagon. The need to keep going when you’ve failed at it three times already. When you just can’t seem to get the last 5 questions.
When we persevere we train our resilience. We develop our ability to take setbacks in our stride. We bet on ourselves than even though this approach didn’t work, we will figure it out.
There is a regularly misquoted line, usually attributed to Edison regarding his myriad lightbulb experiments. When asked by a reporter how it felt to fail 1,000 times, he – purportedly – responded that he had not failed, rather that he had simply found 1,000 ways not to make a lightbulb.
Whether there were 1,000 not-lightbulbs or 10,000 not-lightbulbs the sentiment is the same – and it’s a good one. The most successful people try, fail, and try again.
They don’t let their failure or inadequacy define them.
They try again.
This can manifest itself in many ways. Perhaps you are a fantastic planner – you watch every video, read every tutorial, and listen to every interview before you attempt your goals. Perhaps you know exactly what chapter you need to study for next week’s test.
But meticulousness can also manifest in the way you do things. Do you measure out each ingredient from the recipe before starting to cook? Do you redo things until they are good enough?
These personal habits manifest grit and resilience.
No, not running at dragons or into burning buildings – these are courageous acts but they are not the limit of the definition.
It takes courage to quit your terrible job to start your own business. It takes courage to move to a new town to attend university. It takes courage to move schools and make new friends. It takes courage to forgive people who have hurt you, and it takes even more courage to trust others and move on from old hurt.
Perhaps the most courageous thing you can do is standing up for what you believe in.
Sometimes, the only difference between succeeding and failing is the courage to start.
Misconceptions about resilience and grit
There are lots of myths and misconceptions about grit and resilience.
Resilience isn’t genetic
Many people will generalise and say that some people are just born more resilient. For example, when two siblings grow up in the same household, experience the same things, and share trauma – but one succeeds in life where the other falls down.
The difference is not in the innate resilience of one sibling as opposed to the other, but rather that one sibling had more support – even if it didn’t look like it at the time or it didn’t come from within the home.
Perhaps the successful sibling turned to a school counsellor for advice, or developed a strong friendship group for support. The small things all add up, and in the long run can have a big impact.
Eye colour is genetic – resilience is developed.
Kids are not emotionally bulletproof
It is common for people to think ‘they’re so young, it won’t affect them’, and while this is sometimes true it is often not the case.
Trauma and inherited trauma can affect a child’s emotional development and overall happiness much further down the track.
Ways to build resilience
Working on your self esteem is a great step in becoming a resilient person. By cultivating a positive self-image, refusing negative self-talk, and overall increasing self esteem we can be more assured in our decisions and develop that courage needed to make big choices and changes.
From the most successful superstar to the boring and comfortable average person. Because people who fail are the people who learn, who succeed. It is important to learn to deal with setbacks and frustrations without reacting negatively or quitting.
Have coping mechanisms
This is a big one. By setting up coping mechanisms we can not only train ourselves out of bad habits and negative self-talk we can also develop resistance to stress related quitting.
If you know that you are often too tired in the evening to complete your tasks, organise your day so that you can complete them earlier. If you feel yourself starting to panic, get up and go for a walk. Preventing the meltdown or rage quit is infinitely better than piecing it all back together or starting from scratch all over again.
Feel your emotions
It is important to allow yourself to feel your emotions. This may sound silly, but a lot of damage can be done when we bottle up our emotions and let the tension and stress build.
Think about it – when is a bucket more likely to overflow and make a mess? When it has been emptied periodically and is almost always nearly empty? Or when it is never emptied and random amounts are continually being poured in with no care taken?
Feeling your emotions is important as it teaches you how to deal with them, so we don’t overreact when we are angry or breakdown under pressure.
Support networks are vital. It does not matter if your support network is your football team, your siblings, the volunteers down the local animal shelter, or people you play games online with. Having that connection is vitally important.
Look for positivity
Accept that bad things and negative feelings will happen, because they will and this will suck. The trick, however, is not to let that negativity bleed into other aspects of your life. Even if something happens which is completely negative and you cannot find a good side to it. Remember the positives that exist outside that negative thing, because they do.
This is success 101. There may be a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of success but those odds get better when you have a well set out plan for success.
Goals don’t need to be complex, and your version of goals can change from day-to-day. Some days you plough through the list and have time to spare. Sometimes the goals are getting out of bed, showering, and eating. Whichever type of day you are having, it will be infinitely easier if you have a goal plan.
Ways to inspire resilience in others
Their experience may not be the same as yours, their definitions of success may differ, and their goals may be wildly different or incongruous to yours – and that’s ok.
Accept people for who they are, and if they are a positive influence in your life try to be a positive influence in theirs.
You know how much better it feels to be supported in your goals, so be that person for others. Having someone be encouraging can sometimes be the difference between them succeeding or never trying to start with.
While you should accept others goals as their own and not cast judgement on them, it is important to present a broad range of opportunities. There are many people whose world view is entirely coloured by social media, or a family member. This is why connection with others is important, so that people know there are other options for them than just what is expected by their culture or society.
Learning about yourself is an important step to managing and improving yourself, so allow and encourage others to explore this in whatever way they find effective. This can be through mediation, yoga, religious reflection, or even weightlifting. Just because something works for you doesn’t mean it will for others so provide options but don’t push for one over the other.
Help, don’t take over
The protective urge to ‘just do it for them’ when our friends fail or fail to do well at something is strong, but it is important to let them do it for themselves. Not only does this encourage them to learn the skill better, but it teaches them that they are able to fall down and get up again – to succeed in the long run.
Provide them with perspective, a failure can feel all-encompassing, but knowing that it isn’t the be-all and end-all is an important part of getting up and trying again.
It is ok to not be ok. Failure is fine. Success is possible. The bad stuff will not last forever because we will not let it. Lean on support networks. Connect with people. It will all be alright in the end.
Resilience and grit are not innate gifts, they are things that we can develop and practice until they are some of our strongest skills.
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As an ex-cop and gang member, Akerei (Rei) Maresala-Thomson has spent time witnessing the struggles and challenges of the New Zealand community
After 12 years serving with the NZ Police, Rei resigned from his role as Senior Sergeant in Charge of the Pacific, Ethnic and Asian portfolio for Counties Manukau in March, 2017.
He has made it his mission to continue confronting issues, and trying to improve Pacific wellbeing in NZ – but this time he is using technology.
Rei is now the Technical Advisor for free app MYRIVR, a self-funded and volunteer managed concept from the community which was developed and released in 2015 by Corefusion Limited as MASA (Multi-Agency Services Application) to assist in a successful trial with Counties Manukau Police.
MYRIVR is now NZ’s largest in-app directory of community services, enabling visibility and instant access to more than 20,000 helpers and over 7,000 health and social services around the country.
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