By Anj Handa
In her 2016 book, Grit, psychologist Angela Duckworth claimed that the secret to outstanding achievement isn’t talent, but ‘grit’, which she describes as a blend of passion and long-term perseverance.
I could never fully subscribe to this view. It’s interesting that although Duckworth was originally lauded by peers as having found the secret of success, her findings are already being debated within academic circles.
I did, however, find myself agreeing with her view of grit (which most of us might see as a form of resilience) when she talked about growth mindset. This is where people understand that their current state isn’t fixed and that they can move on from negative situations.
I’d like to share a couple of examples of where what she describes as grit have come at times when I’ve felt, frankly… absolutely shit.
The original idea for Inspiring Women Changemakers came to me a couple of years ago, but the 2015 launch event was stalled when I experienced four bereavements within the space of a month. I cancelled the event, much to everyone’s surprise.
Resting, reflection and resilience
I don’t mind admitting that I felt stuck for a good few months following the bereavements. I just couldn’t move forward with anything. It took a restful but transformative break to Santorini to get me back on track.
My passion for the Inspiring Women Changemakers movement was still there (albeit as a dimmed flame). However, perseverance was hiding under the duvet, begging me for just a few more weeks.
On reflection, I’m so grateful that plans were stalled, because it brought some amazing supporters on board (especially Justine Osmotherley from Clarion Solicitors and Diane Cheesebrough from The Big Word – thank you).
The unplanned break meant that I could move forward with clarity from a place of integrity. The upcoming Igniting Inspiration event this November will be different – and better – than the one I’d originally planned.
Break a leg…or an ankle
Fast forward to today. Over the last few months, things had been progressing apace and I had workshops lined up throughout August. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I broke my ankle. I’m known for doing adrenaline-fuelled charity challenges, which include a skydive from 15,000 feet, an abseil down the Royal Armouries, Yorkshire Three Peaks and Ben Nevis, to name but a few.
The nature of this injury is much more mundane, but no less challenging. Caused simply sliding on loose gravel, who knew that that this form of grit would lead me to once again to draw on my reserves of humour, gratitude for small things and flexibility to carry me through.
Essentially though, the knowledge that ‘this too shall pass’ has helped me make the most of a bad situation. As for the shit – I tend to dive into self-pity, ‘be’ in it for a matter of seconds and then it passes. Eckhart Tolle would be so proud of me.
So, this is my message to you. Wallow in feeling shitty. You’ll soon become bored and get back to being gritty. Onwards and upwards!
P.S. Interested in Angela Duckworth’s work? Then watch her TED talk.
Anj Handa is the Founder of Inspiring Women Changemakers. She helps women to speak up: for themselves, for others & for social issues.