gritsNot this (source)

A friend of mine posted a TED talk on Facebook. The woman in the video, a former teacher, wondered what actually predicts success for people. It wasn’t intelligence. It wasn’t good grades. It wasn’t social skills, or a good home life, or the right teaching methodology. It was, simply put, grit.

Grit. We’re not talking about definition #1, which is “small loose particles of stone or sand”, although some of my geologist-loving friends might discuss it amongst themselves. It’s the second definition that fascinates me: “courage and resolve, strength of character”. Synonyms include bravery, pluck, mettle, backbone, and plain old courage.

The woman in the TED talk, Angela Lee Duckworth, left teaching to study psychology. She wanted to better understand the phenomenon. Wikipedia defines grit this way: Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective.

Grit is a composite quality. It’s passion plus motivation or perseverance. Passion alone won’t get you very far. Emotions run high after watching “The Biggest Loser”. “Oh yeah!” we tell ourselves. “This is the year. I’m gonna lose 20 pounds and get ripped!” We head to the gym at 5:00 a.m. the next day, pumped up. We do the circuits and emerge, sweaty and triumphant. We hop on the scale the following morning. Huh. Nothing doing. We shrug it off and do another workout at the gym, this time on the treadmill. We might even make it a third or fourth day, but if the scale hasn’t moved or our pants gotten looser, we’re probably out. When the alarm goes off, we hit the snooze button and roll over. The dream didn’t come true like we’d planned. We’re done.

But perseverance itself won’t do it all, either. We can work and work at some task, but if we’re not careful, we practice mistakes. We execute weight lifting reps with bad form, slumped over instead of with straight backs. We go over and over difficult musical passages or rhythms and embed the mistakes into muscle memory instead of doing them correctly. We didn’t take the time to check ourselves. We ensure our failure without even realizing it.

I know I have done both. I want instant results, and frankly, working at something isn’t sexy. It takes time. It can get boring. Excitement about the end goal lags behind all the effort involved. I can’t see the finish line. Heck, I can’t even hear the crowds cheering.

Yet anything worth anything takes time. My dad spent a lot of time instilling this into me. He encouraged me whenever I wanted to just give up. He taught me to drive a stick shift, brave man. He worked with me on my volleyball skills. His patient and continuous exhortation allowed me to believe in myself enough to keep going. His love manifested this way gave me a great picture of Father God.

And so I ask you, are you gritty? Do you give up when things get rough? Or do you dig in and search out a better solution? God has great things for us, and sometimes we give up on them too easily. He wants to build that steadfast quality in us. God has given us dreams and goals, but we have to stay the course and go after them. I want to impart this to our kids, because some of the sweetest things in life only come with the regular application of grit.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. – Galatians 6:9