Grit. Gratitude. Grace. Essential Tools for Hanging In There
Essential Tools for Thriving…. Hanging In There
Written by Michele Dial, M.Ed, LPC
There are times when I find myself wondering how I’m going to [fill in the blank]. How am I going to finish my work and still get home in time to walk the dog and cook dinner? How am I going to take care of my aging parents and in-laws? How am I going to show up for my stepchildren without stepping on their mother’s toes? How am I going to . . .? The list seems endless at times, and I know I don’t always have a tidy, foolproof plan for all of these scenarios. Yet we’re all making it somehow, we’re all generally happy and well-adjusted, and I’m still (mostly) sane. Looking back, I can pinpoint a few essentials that help me keep moving forward and maintaining a healthy outlook on my life, with all its messiness and beauty.
Grit: firmness of mind or spirit; unyielding courage; indomitable spirit
I’ve always had a sense of grit being about just holding on and persevering. These official definitions really take it to a new level. I’m not sure my courage is unyielding or my spirit is indomitable, but I can own the firmness of mind or spirit, of sheer determination to push forward to tackle what is within my reach and my ability to accomplish.
This past weekend, we hosted several out-of-town guests in our home. I don’t have the Monica Gellar (hello, Friends) everything-must-sparkle-every-day gene, so when guests are on the calendar, I have to dive into full-blown cleaning mode. After my regular work day/evening last week, I would go home and clean and prep food until midnight, sleep six hours, and start all over the next day. Despite feelings of fatigue setting in, and telling myself, “I’ll go to bed earlier tonight,” I continued to push through until the checklist for the day was complete. My mind and body need a fair amount of rest to recharge and refresh, so by Sunday, I crashed. We had a great weekend, but it took every ounce of grit I could muster to get ready, and then get through the flurry of activity.
Gratitude: the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful
This one may be self-explanatory, at least as far as what it is. But do you know how gratitude can help you thrive? According to Derrick Carpenter, MAPP, “People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they're thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.” It is sometimes easy to let thoughts of difficulties and challenges take over our mental space. It’s like we can’t stop thinking about the problem or issue until it is resolved . . . and that mindset assumes there is a solution. Of course we have to spend time work through our challenges – I certainly don’t recommend denial. But we don’t have to fixate and be controlled by the negative emotions that come with challenges. Instead, we can choose to acknowledge and accept what we’re experiencing, recognize that we will do whatever is within our power as appropriate to reach resolution, and then shift our focus.
Gratitude is great reminder that even when we’re hurting, there is light in our lives. When an aging parent is steadily declining in health, we can focus on our regrets, or we can be thankful for the enriching moments we shared. When our child is struggling in school, we can focus on academic performance, or we can be grateful for his sense of humor and kindness toward others. Gratitude does not ignore the problem. It simply reminds us that there is always more than the pain of what we’re experiencing. Likewise, proactive gratitude changes our negatively skewed filter to a more positive lens.
Grace: a manifestation of favor; a disposition to or an act of kindness, courtesy, or clemency
This one. It can be tough. Many of us afford others grace on a daily basis. But when it comes to accepting ourselves as less than perfect, somehow our grace seems to run dry. Why is it that we feel we deserve less grace from ourselves than everyone else gets?
I especially like the definition of clemency – a disposition to be merciful, especially to moderate the severity of punishment due. Part of my personal work is being merciful with myself rather than beating myself up when I fall short of my own expectations. I believe I deserve the grace to not always get it right, to not always keep it together. I believe I deserve to let myself fall apart from time to time, and to allow someone near and dear to me (family, friend) to catch me on the way down. Believing it and living it are two different things that don’t always line up. But when they do, when I give myself some grace for being utterly human and imperfect, my outlook on life is a lot brighter, and I am better able to enjoy all the goodness around me.
And after the GRACE, we summon the GRIT to get back up and start again.