Sometimes the road ahead looks long and bleak. Choices seem to fade into just a few shades. You want to give up your dream—it feels stupid, really, to you. Experts might say you need more “grit.” But what is it, you wonder, where did it come from—and how do I get it?
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The term grit probably came from the military to indicate “what it takes” to get the job done regardless of the odds. The word grit is often used to mean “perseverance.” But that word is packed with many smaller steps.
Here is a list that includes most of those smaller steps. These tips come from my research with thousands of people for my books.
1. Dream realistically. Yes, it is important to have dream goals—but give yourself a reality check: Do I have the natural ability? Or is it just a matter of learning skills? For example, when I was about nine years old, I went on a school trip to the planetarium. The lecturer talked about planets and stars and the formation of the universe. Wow—a whole world opened up to me, and I realized I wanted to be what is known as an astrophysicist.
But—oops—I discovered that I do not have the higher math skills that physicists require. I could be tutored for life, and I doubt it would have helped! So, now, I just watch all those shows on television about the universe. Make sure you find out what your dream job requires.
2. Talk out your goals and projects with someone you trust and respect. Explaining things to someone else forces you to be clear. The experience also reveals your lapses in logic, planning, thinking and understanding.
3. Consult with people who are experts in your dream project. Think about people you’ve heard about in your community who have achieved what you want to do. Ask your boss and family members if they know someone you can contact. And don’t let your fears of talking to strangers stop you from contacting people you don’t know. Trust me, people love to tell their story and educate and help others.
4. Read biographies of people in your area of interest. I love reading about the lives of others. All of them had to struggle, soul-search, refine their ideas—and even face setbacks and start over. An extra benefit to reading biographies is that you get inspired. You also learn how other accomplished people deal with dashed hopes and rejection. For example, authors J.K. Rowling and James Patterson submitted their book proposals to almost one hundred agents—who then rejected them!
5. Find inspirational photos about world or local events. For the longest time, I kept a photo of the fireman holding a child in his arms. The photo was from the Twin Towers disaster in New York City. That picture spoke to me: “Life is short, girl. Do it now!!”
6. Know your internal negative messages and impeding behaviors. More than any of the tips I’ve given you if you could do only one—do this one! We are often our worst enemy. To accomplish this task, you must train your intuitive feedback about your feelings, thoughts and actions—including inactions! Procrastination is a key sign of anxiety. But developing this intuitive mindfulness takes self-training and self-psychological examination, as well as the emotional bravery to face you honestly. So, how do you do that? Here are some questions to ask:
Procrastination is a key sign of anxiety. But developing this intuitive mindfulness takes self-training and self-psychological examination, as well as the emotional bravery to face you honestly. So, how do you do that? Here are some questions to ask:
- What messages and words did my parents/caregivers say that might hold me back?
- What did these people’s own behaviors and words teach me about love, work, money, status, success and optimism/pessimism?
- Would my caregivers cheer—or jeer—if I pursue my goals?
- Do I have the inner strength to go against these words, attitudes and behaviors?
- How much do I believe in any of their negative views of me?
- And what do I do to absorb these negative ideas—and then defeat myself?
7. Deal with setbacks productively. Regard setbacks as only tweaks in your strategy or thinking. Do not see them as absolute “No’s.” My favorite author is (okay, I know this person is “in” right now—but I have always been drawn to) Jane Austen. I’ve read and reread her books, and I have a collection of biographies and critical essays about her.
But what really grabbed my attention is how many times she rewrote, revised and replaced. Accept that you might end up going down roads you didn’t expect. A winding or crooked path is normal.
The important thing is to get going! You can’t edit a blank page. And you can’t modify wrong turns if you don’t take any turns at all!
I wish you happiness and inner strength.