Grit

I’ve gone back and forth on this post all week.  

My struggle is one between wanting to put forward my best face to the world all the time, and be “inspirational” and wanting to be real and put forward the face that I actually have on at any given moment in time, even if it happens to be a really ugly one.

I went the ugly route. Please forgive me.

 

I got my 25 minute bike ride done on Monday night, but was fighting against it the entire time. From minute 2, I was already thinking about when I was going to get off the bike. I was pouring sweat before I hit minute 5. For not the first time, I was reminded coldly and viciously that “I am not an athlete”. The voice in my head swallowed me up whole. She won on Monday night. I left the gym with my head down, my shoulders slumped, feeling completely and totally defeated.

The voice was thrilled.  

Also on Monday night (after my workout and class), I said the words out loud for one of the first times in public. I haven’t really said the words out loud yet to anybody except Matt and a couple of my very close friends. As the words came out of my mouth; “I want to do the Muskoka Half Ironman next year”, it was like I heard them for the first time myself. I saw myself the way other people must see me, and all of the wheels just came off.

As the words hung there in the air like a lazy fog, this overwhelming panic washed over me. What the hell am I thinking? I don’t have the time to dedicate to this, why do I even want to do this to myself anyways? It was like the next year of my life unfolded in front of my eyes, but only the awful parts. The debilitating injuries, the long stressful days, imaginary accidents where somebody hits me with a car while I’m out on the bike, the tears, the negative impact on my relationships because I just don’t have the time for anyone except the gym.

Have you ever seen a cat push away from something that they really don’t want to be close to? When they stiffen out their arms and push away and retract their neck so their head is as far away from whatever it is (usually the poor unassuming human who just wants to cuddle with them for 2 minutes) as it can be?

I felt like the cat. On the outside I was smiling, but on the inside I was stiff-armed, retracted neck, pushing as far away from the whole idea as I could possibly get.

I took some time to just calm down and think yesterday and got my head back on somewhat straight. Okay, maybe Matt helped a bit too.

Now I’m a much happier cat.

 

My little crisis of confidence led me to delve into a topic that I’ve been interested in for a long time. It’s called Grit.

The role of “Grit” started to come into play around 2007 when four researchers named Angela Duckworth, Christopher Peterson, Michael Matthews and Dennis Kelly teamed up to put together a study named:

Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals

It was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Volume 92 in 2007.

Here is the full article, but I’ll also give you the Coles Notes version, along with my (very simplistic) take on it for those of you who never actually read the book back in English class. You know who you are.

 Grit Article

So the article starts with a quote from William James (1907). It goes like this:

Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental resources. . .men the world over possess amounts of resource, which only exceptional individuals push to their extremes of use. (William James, 1907, pp. 322–323)

Here’s what I take from that:

1) In general, we as a population only really operate at about 50% of our mental/physical capacity, and we do a pretty decent job with that 50%.

2) It takes an exceptional person to push themselves to 100% capacity and achieve that “extra” that is within every one of us.

But hey, I’m just paraphrasing. How’d I do Billy?

More than 100 years before this work was done in 2007, another scientist named Galton concluded from his research that “ability alone did not bring about success in any field”. Let me repeat that for good measure: ability alone did not bring about success in any field. Amen. He also concluded that “high achievers were triply blessed by ability, combined with zeal and capacity for hard labour”.

In an attempt to learn more about the specific characteristics that make up “Grit” and predict success in pursuing long term goals, Duckworth and her boys (sorry, moment to laugh at my own joke….I thought that was pretty funny) put together what they called “The Grit Scale” which is a self-administered questionnaire asking participants to rank themselves on a scale of 1-5 on a variety of questions designed to unearth your inner “grit” or determination.

They put together several studies designed to measure the level of grit in each respondent in combination with the likelihood of them achieving a given long term goal.

In a study designed to measure the level of grit compared to the respondent’s achievement of a post-secondary education, they found that of all of the respondents for whom this was an important long term goal, those who had achieved the highest levels of education were also the highest in grit scores (all other socio/economic biases removed of course).  

However, the same study found that of those respondents in post-secondary institutions, the ones who scored highest in Grit also had the highest GPA’s and SAT scores.

Another study using the Grit Scale looked at the Scale as a predictor for completion of the rigorous summer training program at the United States Military Academy. You guessed it; the scale was an excellent predictor of those who would complete the program, and those that would drop out, all other biases eliminated.

Cool huh? Wouldn’t you love to take that questionnaire?

You’re in luck. After some digging, I found it online for free. Enjoy.

 Grit Scale

 My Grit Score was 4.5/5. My Ambition Score was 5/5.

I may not be a “good” biker, a “good” swimmer, or a “good” runner. But maybe I’m not as up the creek without a paddle as I thought I was. Galton said it best!

So my question of the day for you is…..how gritty are you!?

I think this whole topic is super interesting, I hope you do too!

Have a great Wednesday!!

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