In the past few days, I've had a series of events occur that are concrete reminders that "grit" pays off. However, I realized that what I'm proudest of this year is not the pride in the outcomes, but that I have learned (and re-learned) how to be present and to believe in myself even when I don't know whether or not the outcomes of my efforts are going to be what I hope for. It is this that has taken more strength than I've ever been able to conjure before in my life. And I breathe into this realization. I had a dissertation committee member who told me last year that I would be finished with my dissertation when I had learned all I needed to learn from the process. That idea caused a lot of anxiety for me for a while, but I think this applies to a lot of the things we do. When we learn how to move through the waves of emotion, without attaching our identity to a particular timeline or an outcome that is supposedly going to be a result of what we're doing, then we are able to learn what we need from the process.
In her TEDx talk [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H14bBuluwB8], Angela Lee Duckworth defines "grit" as passion and perseverance for long term goals. I've thought a lot about this idea as a teacher: Duckworth cites Carol Dweck's research on "growth mindset" as an inspiration for her own thinking, and Dweck's research has informed how I communicate ideas to students--that the ability to learn is not fixed. In my experience, it is clear that students who are willing to fail, yet who don't believe that failure is a permanent condition, are the ones who will see continued growth and success. This is not a new story, but a difficult one to internalize. The only limitations that I regularly see are students who limit themselves and the risks they take because they are afraid of failure. I'm pretty sure that risk-taking should be a core component of every curriculum at every grade level.
These same limitations follow us into adulthood. I look around me and see people paralyzed by fear of change, fear of failure, and fear of the unknown--a willingness, conscious or not, to settle into the status quo. I sure as hell suffer from paralysis on occasion--we all do. I think we can skip the facade of perfection and the fear of failure. It's time to keep it realer than most and get grittier.