Grit by Theresa Bodnar

Passing that test. Making the game winning shot. Getting into the college of your choice. Making a new friend. Getting over that breakup. Graduating high school or tech school. What do these things have in common? They require GRIT, aka Stick-to-it-ness.

GRIT has 3 components:

  1. A growth mindset.
  2. The courage and willingness to fail, to try again, and to keep trying until you succeed.
  3. The vulnerability to ask for help or support when you need it.

When I was 10, my father taught me the mechanics of pitching a softball. We practiced almost every day, and I became very comfortable with the motion and was able to pitch with some accuracy.

Eventually, in the fast pitch softball world, you have to start developing your speed. So my dad and I started working on arm speed and snap. Again we practiced daily. I was able to throw the ball pretty fast, but my accuracy was splotchy and inconsistent.

We had a choice. In games, I could not focus on speed and just concentrate on accuracy, or I could continue to use games to work on developing more speed and accuracy. Continuing to work on speed would inevitably lead to some failure, so I had to be mentally prepared for that, and to find the inner strength and mental toughness to keep throwing, even when I walked 5 batters in a row or unintentionally hit a batter with a pitch.

We chose to continue to work on speed. That was tough. I remember walking 20 batters in a game and also being threatened by umpires to be thrown out of games if I “hit one more person”. I didn’t give up.

I realized how much my grit paid off when I pitched my first game in high school at the Varsity level. I broke the school strike out record (16 strikeouts) that day as a first game freshman and only walked 2 batters the entire game. I had much success after that both as a high school and college pitcher, and I’m grateful every day for the struggle itself, the confidence I built, and the support I had from my dad and my team. Developing grit has helped me work through problems and achieve many milestones and successes in my military career also.

Now let’s explore grit by first considering the following poem I wrote on the subject, and the top 3 things you need to know about it with writing prompts.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve had enough
But I will never give up
I know I have the strength to do this
I know I can push through it

I may fail and fail again
I may fall and get up again
But eventually I will fail forward and win
And eventually I’ll keep standing

I may need your support along the way
To help me stay positive during tough days
To help motivate me to keep trying
To help me remember my reason for striving

I’ll be successful because I’ve had grit
Because with determination I’ve stuck to it
Because I’ve believed in me and tested me
Because of my supportive community

And when I reach my goals I will smile
Knowing all my experiences were worthwhile
Be grateful for the challenge and the win
And be ready to do it all over again

TB’s Top 3 about grit

  1. The first key to grit: GROWTH MINDSET. People with a growth mindset see mistakes as learning opportunities and believe that with hard work and practice they can develop a new skill or overcome a difficult challenge. When faced with failure, they ask the questions, “What can I learn from this?”, and “What can I do different next time to get a better outcome?”. They ultimately believe they have the capacity to learn and grow and that their skills and abilities are not fixed. So here is a writing exercise to get you more connected with this topic of growth mindset: Think of a time when you were learning a new skill. You probably weren’t that great at it to start. What types of things did you have to say to yourself to stay motivated and confident that you would get better?
  2. The second key to grit: TENACITY. People with tenacity have drive and determination. They have the courage to fail and try again with consistent effort. They are willing to keep on failing and trying until they get what they want. Essentially, they have a “never give up” attitude and a strong work ethic. Your writing exercise for tenacity: Think of a time when you failed at something you were really determined to succeed at. What was it about that task, skill, or situation that kept you motivated to keep trying until you could finally say “winning!”? What did you do to keep working at it? What personal qualities do you think helped you most in succeeding?
  3. One final key to grit: ABILITY TO DEVELOP A STRONG SUPPORT NETWORK. People with a strong support network understand that they don’t know everything and are willing to seek out subject matter experts. They are vulnerable enough to ask for help and support. They also know that failure can sometimes take an emotional toll, and they need other people to help them stay motivated during those times. Your writing exercise on developing a strong support network: Think of a big accomplishment that you’ve had. Chances are you didn’t do it alone and at some point you had to ask for help. Who did you ask? Why did you ask that particular person? How did you feel about asking for support? Was it scary? How did you feel after you accomplished your goal? Now….wasn’t it all worth it?

I hope you enjoyed this month’s article about grit and the qualities that make a person “gritty”. Always remember: you are smart, you can do this, you will succeed.

BodnerAbout the Author: Lieutenant Colonel Theresa BODNAR, Monthly Mentor, is a full time Soldier in the Army, a certified Army Master Resilience Trainer (MRT), a Positive Psychology Practitioner, Eating Psychology Educator, Author of Get UPP!: Understanding Positive Psychology, and an aspiring Motivational Speaker. She is excited to get to know you and share all sorts of positive psychology tools, inspirational blogs, and poetry with you. Read More…

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