Is there a difference between grit and resilience?
Those of you know me or read my blog know that grit and resilience are two of my favorite subjects. Their importance in today’s world can’t be over-emphasized. We can’t escape pain, fear and suffering. Yet pain can make us wiser; fear can make us more courageous; and suffering can make us stronger. It’s grit and resilience that make the difference! It’s not enough to want to have grit or be resilient or to think about having grit and being resilient. You have to choose to develop these in life. Grit is our passion and perseverance toward reaching a long-term goal while resilience is the optimism to keep bouncing back from failure, to become a better person because of the obstacles we face. Both of these traits for success are rooted in a growth mindset and they do overlap. But let’s focus on grit for now.
Angela Duckworth’s research has evolved around discovering why some individuals accomplish more than other individuals despite having the same talent, intelligence, and resources. Grit is the motivational drive that keeps you on a difficult task over a sustained period of time. According to award-winning researcher Duckworth, “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Grit enables you to compartmentalize the suffering and stay focused on achieving your objectives.
Six kinds of grit
Whatever it is you want to achieve in life, you won’t get there by standing still and waiting for success to fall into your lap. You need grit. And there are six kinds of grit, according to Steven Kotler. The grit to be your best when you’re at your worst. The grit to master your weaknesses. The grit to control your thoughts. The grit to master fear. The grit to recover. Wherever you are today does not dictate where you will be tomorrow. OK, more easily written than accomplished, you’re probably thinking right now. How do you do it? How do you “just keep going?” How do you become grittier? You push through the pain. There are two types of pain: the temporary pain you feel while training and the permanent pain of regret that comes from quitting or never having tried at all. If you choose the former, you’ll become grittier. Research has also shown that grit increases as we get older. That makes sense because the older we are, the more we’ve encountered and the more we’ve overcome.
There are many stories about people who have displayed incredible grit to achieve their goals, but my favorite story is the one about Julie Moss’ incredible finish in the 1982 Ironman Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii. For those who aren’t familiar with the Ironman, it consists of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile (42.20 km) run, raced in that order. At the time, Julie was a 23-year-old Cal Poly student who called herself a surfer and professional procrastinator. Moss, who had never competed in a triathlon before, was totally underprepared to complete a full Ironman triathlon. She decided to compete because she became interested in doing a project about endurance athletes and their mindset. She did some preliminary training (a few shorter triathlons but nothing close to an Ironman), so she was surprised but happy to find herself leading the favorite, Kathleen McCartney, by some 20 minutes at the beginning of the marathon.
As Moss became more and more exhausted, she started to walk. She was in incredible pain. And then it just clicked, according to Moss. “That moment where I knew that it wasn’t about Kathleen,” she says. “It got to be more about this fight—this idea that as layers get stripped off, you start discovering more of yourself … forget winning the race, just find a way to keep going. And then she “bonked!” Bonking, a.k.a. hitting the wall, is hypoglycemia, which is when you haven’t taken in enough carbohydrates and have exhausted your body’s glycogen stores, leaving you with abnormally low blood glucose levels.
Crawl of fame
Moss collapsed not far from the finish line while leading. Refusing help, she got up, continued and fell a few more times. Her legs were no longer working, but her arms were, so she crawled the final 15 meters or so to the finish line, finding the value in herself that drove her forward. “When you push yourself to limits and keep finding more, you are a champion,” she said when she placed one hand over the finish line to finish second, only 26 seconds behind the winner. Proof that what’s inside you is stronger than what’s in your way! Moss went on to become a successful triathlete, winning her age group in the 2017 Ironman Championships—25 minutes faster than her 1982 Ironman. The real tragedy isn’t that people set their goals too high and never each them, it’s that they set them too low and achieve them. “It is not the mountain that we conquer, but ourselves.” – Sir Edmond Hillary.