Recently, I’ve been thinking about what motivates a person to persevere in the face of struggle. Why do some persevere while others give up? We’re likely all familiar with Thomas Edison’s quote, “I have not failed. I've just found 1,000 ways that won't work.” (Or was it 10,000?) What made Edison choose to try again after at least 999 failures?
Certainly, those who have grit—passion paired with perseverance—are able to rise above difficult circumstances. Those with resilience are able to bounce back after getting knocked down. But are these qualities innate, something a person is born with or without, or can they be developed by anyone?
While I’m not sure everyone is born with these qualities, I do believe everyone can develop grit and resilience when they intentionally choose to. It may be easier for some, but we each have the power to cultivate these virtues. My life is a testament to that.
Everyone can develop grit and resilience when they intentionally choose to.
Growing up, I felt like an outcast. I was bullied throughout elementary and middle school. By the time I was fifteen years old, I was an alcoholic and decided I was done with school, so I dropped out. Certainly, I didn’t have much resilience then. My early years were spent haphazardly drifting through life, living and feeling on the fringe of society.
But I knew I wanted to move forward and upward in life. I didn’t want to be like many of the people I grew up with; they lacked ambition, had been in jail, or simply seemed content to remain as they were. But I didn’t want to be complacent. I wanted more for my life—and I believed I could do and be more.
This is where I began developing grit and resilience. I was determined to continue my education, so I clawed my way into community college, despite being a high school dropout. After, I enrolled in a Physician Assistant school and passed. I wasn’t done, though; I went on to get my PhD, too.
Feeling more resilient after many years of determination, I decided to fight against my alcohol addiction. I had been abusing for about thirty years—getting sober seemed impossible. But grit gave me the faith and strength to try to overcome it. Today, I’m celebrating nearly twenty years of sobriety.
Having grit and resilience helps us get back on our feet when we’ve been knocked down. It stops us from being satisfied with the status quo; grit raises the bar while perseverance urges us to try again. Whether or not people are born with grit and resilience, my life is proof that these skills can be developed. But we must intentionally hone these skills if we hope to make them our default response.
Having grit and resilience helps us get back on our feet when we’ve been knocked down. It stops us from being satisfied with the status quo.
So, how do we develop grit? How can we increase our resilience? The answer is simple: through intentional practice. Just as someone who wants to be more patient must practice it, so too must grit and resilience be practiced. Next time you face a tough situation that makes you want to throw in the towel, practice resilience. Choose to let it go and try again. Choose to fight back. Choose to pivot, employ a different strategy, or examine how you can improve. You didn’t get the job you wanted? Review your resume, practice your interview skills, and apply to more jobs. You just can’t seem to lose the weight, no matter what you do? Choose to avoid dieting, and instead adopt a lifestyle change. Try again—this time may be the one that makes all the difference.
Developing grit and resilience is tough, but it’s a matter of choice every time. Are you going to give up or try one more time? Are you going to rise above or get complacent? All of it is your choice. No matter how hard it is to increase your grit and resilience, it will be worth it. Your life will be better for it.
Are you going to give up or try one more time? Are you going to rise above or get complacent? All of it is your choice.
I was a high school dropout without hope. I was poor and dependent on alcohol. I didn’t believe I could change much about my life. But I chose to start my life over. I chose grit. I chose resilience. Over and over, I chose not to settle or stay down. Now, I’m happily married to my best friend, financially independent, and running two businesses.
I didn’t get sober until I was forty-one.
I got my PhD when I was forty-three.
I started a business when I was fifty-five.
It’s never too late to begin developing these qualities. If you decided today to practice grit and resilience, how would your life change? What might you be able to accomplish? You just might be the next person to invent a new “light bulb.”
Do you want to further develop your grit and resilience so you can bounce back faster? Book an appointment with Scott Massey today and begin your transformation!