When I tried to describe what is meant by grit to some of my clients last week two words kept coming to mind: ‘resilience’ and ‘perseverance’. I can’t think of two attributes that are more important to long term health.
For a lot of people the measure of good health is being disease and/or injury free. This is both unrealistic (in 2014 at least) and unattainable. No one is completely disease free and/or injury free throughout their life. Whilst healthy practices can extend disease-free and injury-free periods of our lives it is inevitable that we will suffer some form of setback throughout our many years. What is more important than being disease free is being resilient to health setbacks. This is just as much a psychological disposition as a physiological one. By being prepared for disease and setbacks we are better able to cope and recover – time and time again.
Perseverance is about sticking to a pattern of behaviour that will deliver the best long term results. To ensure this we need to reward the behaviour, not the results. It is the summary of these behaviours that elicits the result on the scales. So don’t look to the scales, look to the behaviour. Perseverance does not need to be stubborn repetition, in fact most times this is not an appropriate pattern of behaviour. Perseverance should also include a variety of healthy behaviours that are not just good for you but are stimulating and self-rewarding. Through this variety we also learn a great deal about ourselves and our responses to various stimuli. It is this vast range of experiences that will help you to develop the best pattern of behaviour for you and your health.
If that all sounds a little too clinical for your liking, let me strip it back to a more creative point of view. Your health is a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t matter how you run the marathon, what matters is that you keep running and that you keep running as best you can. By being perpetually resilient and perseverant you are learning constantly what can be done better.
When I coach sports teams I prefer to provide a leading framework that the players can then use their own intelligence and problem solving skills to deliver on. For example, my mantra would be something like: “I’m going to tell you where the goal posts are but it is up to you how you kick the goal”. If I compare this to personal training the best results are when the client delivers their own solutions because once the direction and leading framework is provided it is my experience that people are usually very good at problem solving for themselves. The leading framework may be that we need to decrease weight so that we decrease our risk of heart disease. The problem solving can involve any of the following solutions: increased exercise, decreased calorie consumption, eliminate alcohol, eliminate processed food and the list goes on. All that most people need is to know where the goal posts are, they don’t need to be told how to kick the goal.
So the next time you have a setback, don’t be surprised. Be prepared. Be prepared to get gritty. Because the more you practice getting gritty, the better you will get at it. And the result is a seriously healthy and successful future.