Life can sometimes feel like a contact sport. Like the time when you fought your way, with perfect wit and grace no less, to the top of the pile but didn’t get the job.
Or when you were so sure you aced that exam but it came back with a big fat red FAIL scribbled in Sharpie on the front page and a pitying look of What happened? from your teacher.
Or when you ate that curry, that looked so good at first, but that later gave you the runs like you’d never had before, and you ended up spending a very long, very miserable night snuggling your toilet.
Sometimes, you even get everything you want before you find out that money can’t buy happiness.
Sure, it’ll buy you lots of nice things, and it’s always nicer to cry in a mansion than in a shoebox-sized apartment that smells like sauerkraut no matter how much you clean it, but it can’t buy you happiness outright.
At least you have an apartment, right? Nah, shiz** is still shiz even when it looks nice. Free printable poster to that effect, right here, honey👇
Developing grit is your best defence against the onslaught that is life
By developing your grit you’ll live a more focused, constructive and satisfying life.
Every day is a new opportunity for life to sling crap at you like a monkey at the zoo. Especially as an empath, you may be feeling more overwhelmed than most.
You might even be thinking that there’s something wrong with you because everybody else seems to be doin’ just fine, while you’re still struggling to crawl out of bed. Or why you’re still wondering why Susan said what she said in the way she said it on the 5th of October in 1998 when everyone else has completely forgotten about it.
The symptoms an empath can get when feeling overwhelmed are myriad but can be managed.
Difficult relationships, being around toxic people, health issues, grief and existential crises are just some of those things that life’s challenges are made of (no matter how much you wish it was mostly sugar and spice and everything nice).
You’re not alone though, no matter what you’re dealing with or going through. Everybody, and I mean everybody, even those people who have stellar success and seem immune to the dark side of life, are forced to deal with challenges.
Life can be a real moody birch** and routinely decide to go in another direction than we wish it did. Or, at least, my life does. It’s as if the bloody thing has a mind of its own!
Like the time I figured I’d get back to my pre-pregnancy shape like bippity, boppity, boo.
Happiness and success in life aren’t determined by who’s facing the challenges, but how we face them.
Have you ever wondered how seemingly ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things? Why some people are focused and motivated while others whittle their evenings away in front of the TV watching Real Housewives?
Why some people remain calm in situations that have everyone else running around like their pants are on fire? How some people are able to overcome adversity by staring it down like a labradoodle staring at an off-limits sandwich.
The answer? Grit.
What is grit?
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. We’ve all heard this nugget of wisdom.
Cliché as it has become, it’s still pretty on the nose.
Hey, hey hey, oh, baby! 🎶
Having grit means that you’re confident in that you’ll get through what’s coming. That even when things get hard, you’ll be able to land on your feet.
Grit is more than simply being able to cope with problems as they arise, though. It’s like a secret weapon that you carry with you everywhere you go. It empowers you to be better equipped for life than many other people.
The phrase “mental toughness” has been popular in sports and business* for a long time.
Can confirm, because having competed on a national level in volleyball and martial arts as a teen and young adult, I’ve had several coaches lecture me on the subject. Some of them barking at me red-faced from across the court by way of encouragement.
Most elite athletes will report that at least 50% of superior athletic performance is a direct result of psychological or mental factors.
And a majority of coaches also rate mental toughness as the most important psychological characteristic for determining success in competition.
This is to say, it’s all in your mind, darling.
At a high level of competition, success often hinges on who determines the field and tone of battle.– Joshua Waitzkin, Conversations on Creativity
Research into mental toughness has revealed that it plays a more important role in you achieving your goals than anything else.
Talent and intelligence will only get you so far – grit is the key to success in life, sports, career and everything else.
And the best news: it can be developed deliberately by anyone!
How grit has helped me
As an empath, I quite often find myself in situations where I can feel overwhelmed.
Even when I’m not out and about, being around people and picking up emotional contagion, I can get really stuck in my own head and start spinning my wheels.
Getting into that place where I just overthink everything and spiral into a really negative place isn’t always easy to get out of.
Especially, working alone and having to decide what work is important (rather than having a boss or manager define what I should be doing) can get quite stressful at times and I can start feeling lost.
I wasn’t born with a lot of grit, it’s something that I’ve developed over several years and a lot of practice.
As part of my job as a copywriter, I create content to help overwhelmed empaths develop grit in order to achieve their goals in life and live a calm, fulfilling existence.
Setbacks in my business, my career as an entrepreneur, health issues and challenges in relationships are all things that I’ve felt like throwing in the Too Hard To Deal With basket so I can just forget about them.
But ignoring the difficult and challenging things would only result in me lying on the sofa and pitying myself into the small hours, chasing down a tub of ice cream with a bag of crisps.
I’d just become trapped in that feeling of life not working out as I had hoped – but without doing anything about it, how can I expect a different outcome?
Before I learned how to cope in a world that won’t stop talking, my modus operandi was to hide away and not take responsibility for anything in my life. I was extremely shy and was too afraid to step into my power and play big.
I wouldn’t be living a life that makes me feel content or have a job that I’m deeply passionate about now if I hadn’t taken deliberate action to develop my own mental toughness and grit to become more resilient.
Grit is all about keeping your future, the life you want, in your sights and consistently and deliberately making your way towards it.
5 benefits of developing grit
Although there is a lot more to having grit, and every challenge you face is unique in its own way, there are big benefits to developing more grit.
1) You will have a more positive outlook
True positivity tends to come from a really dark place. It’s the people who have survived the hardest things that are always the most positive, supportive and inclusive.
They know what it means to face hardships and what it takes to get through a day when it feels like there is no hope.
These are the people who have gotten through the hard stuff and come out of it with experience and wisdom; they know bad events are temporary and have faith that better times will eventually come.
2) You will be better at managing your emotions
When you have faith in your own ability to cope with challenge and difficulty, you won’t be so easily swept away in emotions.
You’ll be better able to accept your emotions as they come without becoming attached to them or allowing them to define you as a person.
You’ll even be able to sit with and give space to the really difficult emotions that may feel scary or uncomfortable.
3) You will know what your goals are and how to turn them into reality
With grit, you’ll be confident in your own ability to deal with challenges and won’t fear making plans for the future.
It will be easier for you to accept even the hard realities and plan for things that may not go to plan.
You’ll also be confident that even when circumstances and plans change, you’ll be able to stay your course and get where you want to go.
4) You will worry less about what others think of you
When you are gritty, you will have a bigger capacity for empathy and compassion.
You will spend less time worrying about what other people may say or think about you, and spend more time doing those things that make you happy and successful.
You will be more resistant to caving under peer pressure and you’ll spend less time mulling over what someone did or said. You’ll also have healthier relationships because you’ll know when and how to draw healthy boundaries.
5) You will not see yourself as a victim
Gritty people rarely victimise themselves or give up their power to act.
They focus their energy on changing the things they can change and have control over.
When you develop your grit, you won’t sit around waiting for someone else to make your decisions for you or let someone else live the life you want.
You’ll be ready to seize an opportunity when it comes along and consistently work towards achieving the things that are important to you.
How to assess your own grit
Basically, you’re assessing how well you deal with the world and how you interact with it.
I’ve put together a quiz, using various psychological scales, my own knowledge of mental toughness and the approaches to it in eastern philosophy to help you figure out how mentally tough you are.
These questions are for you to ask yourself and to help you understand your own reactions to the challenges you face in life.
If you often feel frustrated that you haven’t achieved all the things you’d like to or that you’re not in a place in life where you’d like to be, a lack of grit might be at the root of it.
When you really want to take life head-on, achieve everything you’re capable of and beat your inner demons of self-doubt, having grit is essential.
Keep in mind, though: people don’t come in two kinds, the kind with grit and the kind without. We all have mental toughness in different measures and this can also vary greatly over time.
What you should remember, is that everyone can take simple, active steps to increase their own resilience at any time.
5 ways to get more grit
The psychological definition of grit is twofold:
- The ability to stick to long-term goals.
- The ability to keep going despite adversity.
Where talent counts once, effort counts twice.– Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance*
In her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance*, Angela Duckworth explains this finding with a formula:
TALENT x EFFORT = SKILL
SKILL x EFFORT = ACHIEVEMENT
When you apply effort to talent, you get a skill. And when you apply effort to a skill, you get achievement.
Without effort, your talent is just untapped potential.
And without effort, your skill is just something you could’ve done, but never did.
By looking at life asa marathon, rather than a sprint, and by developing certain factors that are intimately connected with grit, you can achieve your goals.
1) Pursue what you’re genuinely interested in
Sticking to a goal that doesn’t really interest you is going to be tough. Instead, find something that you’re genuinely interested in and can be passionate about.
However, sitting around at home waiting for your passion to come find you isn’t going to work.
Go out there and start trying different things. Try things you think you’ll like, try things you don’t think you’ll like and try things you have no idea if you’ll like.
According to professor Duckworth, that’s the most efficient way to find the things you like and are passionate about.
Once you’ve found something you’d like to do more of, find a role-model, coach or mentor that can help you get better at it.
2) Practice until you know it inside-out, and then practice some more
Since we’re much more likely to stick with things we’re good at, consistent hard work and practice are your best friends.
The people with the most grit are always looking to improve, no matter how good they are at something already.
Once you’ve found the thing you’re interested in, start putting in consistent and deliberate work into it daily. Developing a habit of doing a little bit every day is better and will support you making that into a habit much faster than doing a big stint once a week.
Your goal should be to be better at it than you were yesterday. Stick to competing with yourself.
Forget what other people are doing and focus on your own thing because once you go down that road, of feeling like you’re falling short compared to others with more success, you’re screwed.
Stick to checking-in only with people who inspire you and avoid those that make you feel like you are less attractive, less wealthy and less worthy.
And every day that you consistently show up to do the work, add a little to it: meditate a little longer, take on a slightly more challenging yoga pose, try a more complicated recipe, pick up a heavier book.
Even when you come across boring tasks, keep doing it even if you don’t feel like it. Break it into smaller sections, if possible.
Consider tasks like these mental resistance training.
3) Find and connect with your higher purpose
This is where the passion comes in: people who are passionate about what they do are grittier.
When you’re passionate about something, it becomes much easier to stick with it even when it gets a bit boring.
To find your passion, you need to understand why you’re passionate about doing something.
Take a step back and think about how it can contribute to the well-being of others. Why is what you do worth doing?
Not only will finding your passion help solidify your grit, it will also help you enjoy the work itself more.
So, reflect on how what you do benefits other people and connect back to that purpose on a regular basis.
4) Get your hopes up, go on!
To reach your goals, you need to first believe it’s possible. You can’t achieve what you can’t see.
Limiting your beliefs about your own abilities and what you can achieve affects your grit negatively.
The brain retains its plasticity throughout life and can learn new things at any point in time, young or old.
You can literally reshape your brain through practice and experience. The more you practice, the more your brain will adapt.
Remember the advice “practice until you know it inside-out, and then practice some more” from before? Really take that to heart because it’s the consistent effort that is going to make all the difference.
Thinking that your abilities are fixed or unalterable is just plain wrong. If you have an idea of what you’d like to achieve but don’t know how to do it: find people who’ve done it before you and learn from them.
5) Surround yourself with gritty people
The people who you spend the most time with have a huge influence on how you think, feel and behave.
When you spend enough time with the kind of people who do things a certain way, their way of doing things becomes your way of doing things.
Their norms and standards will become your new measures for success.
Surround yourself with people who will provide you with positive peer pressure; meaning that they’ll support you through the tough times and push you when you’re at risk of getting complacent.
Spend enough time with gritty people and it’s just a question of time before it starts rubbing off on you and you become gritty yourself.
Keys to growing your grit
The people who are successful stick with their long-term goals without getting too distracted. They show up every day and keep showing up, even when it gets boring or difficult.
80% of success is simply showing up. Once you’ve shown up, you can figure out where to pick up and keep going. But if you don’t show up, you’ll get lost in the land of Things That Seem More Interesting and end up living a life that you’re aren’t satisfied with.
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* Links marked with an asterisk are affiliate links. This means that if you purchase through me, I get a commission – or what I like to call thank you-money because it sounds less like a Tupperware sales lady and more like a recommendation from a friend. All of this is at no extra cost to you and an excellent way to support my work so that I can keep writing more articles like this. Thank you for reading!
** I strive to keep it clean with alternate spellings to avoid too many cuss-words. Why throw around expletives if it’s not effective, hey? Plus it lets me flex my writing muslces when I’m trying to come up with ways of saying stuff that isn’t directly a cuss-word but still gets the point across. If I land any double entendres in the process, that’s just a happy bonus.