With the wild world we live in these days, how do we handle the dreadful times and be there for others when life gets harsh?
How can we find the courage to wait out the storm in hopes of seeing the rainbow at the end?
Years of schooling didn’t teach me how to handle my emotions, or how to handle the emotions of those around me. I didn’t learn how to care for the sick, hurt, or dying family members who would need me in the future. I didn’t learn how to ask for help, or how to say “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” No one showed me how to appreciate myself and others through the good and bad times.
I had some great friends and family members who taught me some of the important parts of life outside of English spelling tests and science quizzes, but also had some friends and family who knocked my confidence and made me feel powerless. It was a while before I learned how to deal with the real grittiness of life that would be thrown my way.
The people in our communities have become more self-reliant and independent than ever before. We hide behind screens and post pictures of a fake and idealistic world, just so we can compare our filtered life images to other phony pictures of what life could be.
We leave out the hard stuff.
Everyone has problems, and nobody seems to care. With home and rent prices up, pay wages down, environmental disaster, political corruption, cancer, and disease running rabid, it’s harder than ever to get through the tough times. The days of family and friends coming together to aid each other during sick and stressful times has nearly vanished. People can ignore calls because of caller ID. They can lock doors and peep on visitors through cameras connected to their phones. The screens and fake life become a distraction from what truly matters: the here and now and the relationships that make life worth living.
With all there is to fear, worry, and hide from, how can we dig deep to get to a place where we find meaning in the confusion and beauty in the chaos?
We just have to do it. We have to get gritty and open up vulnerable parts of ourselves.
We are all a different shade or pattern from the same cut of cloth. We have the same struggles, worries, and fears. We need each other. We cannot be scared. We cannot hide.
Here are some tips for choosing to take on the challenge—to choose to grow through the muck instead of letting it stomp us down:
1. Take action.
Nothing is as bad as we make it out to be. Many times we don’t take action because we are afraid of what might happen. The present moment is all we have. Looking into the past will bring grief, and looking too far forward will create anxiety. If you don’t know where to start, focus on what action you can take at this very moment.
2. Don’t rely on texting and Facebook.
These are the lowest forms of communication. If you want to be there for somebody, call them or try to see them in person. This is how meaningful and connected communication occurs. And, no, emojis do not explain how people really feel.
3. Be hopeful and optimistic.
Being gritty means never giving up. It means that even through the pain and darkness, there is light at the end of the tunnel and greener pastures ahead. Gritty people know that everything is temporary and nothing lasts forever. It’s okay to stick our hands in the mud, because we know we can wash them later.
4. Don’t be a loner.
Have meaningful relationships. We are pack animals. We need each other. We need people with whom we love and connect, to celebrate the good times with and to share the struggles of the not-so-good times. Everyone has problems and will need help at some point. To think we should not share our struggles is a limiting thought process.
5. Have self-confidence and self-love.
This should probably be number one on the list if this was ranked in order of importance. It’s not, because I feel all these aspects are important. But seriously, especially this one.
If you don’t love yourself and have faith in your capabilities, you won’t be able to help anyone else. I learned this the hard way. Through life experience.
If you are barely surviving and barely able to care for yourself, how can you help others? Every day that I work on bettering myself, and do the things that bring joy and flow into my life, I am able to refill my cup and get back to “work.” You are responsible for your physical, mental, spiritual, and financial health. In helping yourself, you are creating the space and confidence to help others.
6. Give freely.
Give without expecting anything in return, even though there is much we can gain from acting selflessly. Sometimes, though, we think we are unable to give because of excuses we have created. When we give our time, money, energy, thoughts, love, and more, we are telling the universe that we are not greedy and that there is more room in our lives for these things to flow back freely. If we are greedy, and abstain from giving because we don’t have the “time, money, energy, strength,” the universe hears us and it sends less of these things our way.
7. Don’t try to do it all.
Focus on the areas that you are most helpful or have good experience with. It can be good to step outside your comfort zone, but what the world needs is for you to show up with the unique gifts that you have to offer. If you work at what you know how to do best and what feels best, you will be able to offer more than if you struggle to do something foreign to you.
8. Use failure as fire.
Use the lessons you have learned from making mistakes and failure to light the fire within and be even better than you were yesterday. Grit means you know you won’t always do the right thing, but that you will learn from your mistakes and suffering. These moments in life offer change and a means to do better.
We experience little growth when things are going easy and comfortable. Challenges and failure allow us to become creative problem-solvers. The next time you feel like a failure, take a look at what lessons were learned.
9. Have a growth mindset.
People with a growth mindset understand that hard work is the key to growth. A growth mindset allows you to take failures and turn them into new opportunities. Having a growth mindset means you are willing to take risks because you know that growth happens outside of your comfort zone.
Having a growth mindset means that you are not limiting yourself by being stuck in one idea or mindset but rather giving yourself permission to be flexible in an ever-changing world. A growth mindset means that maybe what has been working before will change into something better and new.
10. Forgive and forget.
Forgive others and yourself for not being perfect. For the mistakes we’ve made along the way. When we forgive ourselves and others, we allow love and compassion to flow freely. Love, the only thing that can truly solve many of our problems, is essential for getting through the mucky parts of life. Love will break down barriers and allow us to forget the separations and judgments we create for one another.
We might not have been taught everything we wish we needed to know. And maybe we are trying to unlearn somethings that we were shown.
Developing authentic grit isn’t something that will happen once you’ve finished reading this article. It won’t even happen tomorrow or the next day. Authentic grit takes time and courage. It takes discipline and commitment. It takes practice and patience.
No one is perfect, nor should they be. But as long as there is a new day ahead of us, there is another moment to choose grit over grump, to choose right over wrong, and to give instead of take.
The more we practice handling those sh*tty situations in life, the more comfortable we become with the “hows and what-ifs.” We learn what works through trial and error. And we grow stronger with our fellow humans, ready to stand by them when they need us most.