Years of low self-esteem and illness had plagued Tracy Nadler as a young woman. Struggling with an eating disorder, she was in and out of doctors’ offices for more than a decade. Diagnosed with depression along with a host of other physical illnesses, including debilitating headaches, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, high cholesterol and glucose levels, things hit rock bottom. There was only one way out, said Nadler, and that was to understand the power of the mind.
Nadler eventually recognized that her thoughts were what controlled her situations and those thoughts could be changed with the right mindset. Her challenges and illnesses in large part were due to not eating well nor being physically active, goals in which she wanted to improve upon. Nadler saw obstacles when she thought about success and allowed others’ opinions to dictate her ability. It was precisely this that had to change. It was imperative that she set goals and consistently and methodically work toward achieving them. She had to develop a sense of “true grit” to improve her life.
True grit is one’s ability to be persistent and passionate over a long period of time to achieve goals. Have you ever come into contact with a person who is so good at what they do it almost appears effortless? Perhaps it’s a professional athlete, or maybe it’s a musician or a doctor. It might even be a mom who seems to eloquently balance family life while simultaneously caring for herself and raising healthy, happy children. We see examples of people with true grit among every walk of life and they all have similar habits: relentless pursuit of excellence in whatever it is they do and the ability to see past obstacles while consistently working to achieve their goals.
Nadler eventually came to understand this premise. Over time, she was able to change her life and her health for the better. It didn’t come easy, but it did happen. Her advice now to those struggling with similar circumstances: “Focus on your attitude first and be consistent with practicing the things you want to achieve.”
People often see others who embody true grit as performing with grace, whether it’s in a sport, career or life. It appears easy for them. However, those actually experiencing it know that it is plagued with challenges. It’s human nature to not always reveal to others when things are difficult. This is even more evident when others around you are not forthcoming about the challenges they are facing navigating similar circumstances. The reality is that true achievement is very hard.
Dr. Angela Duckworth, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, in her research on true grit and achievement found that deliberate practice, the hard work, is often done alone. It’s not something that people want to share. Imagine competitive runners training for Olympic trials. While they practice in groups from time to time, some of their most difficult workouts, when they push themselves to the brink, are done in solitude. They harness all their mental energy into pushing just a bit harder each time they train. They perform the same skill over and over until perfected. This isn’t unlike any other person who has achieved success in their field. True grit is practice coupled with the belief that you can and will succeed.
Duckworth also notes that “gritty” people “spend time working on really specific goals that are just outside of what they could do yesterday.” Pushing just beyond one’s comfort level is imperative for growth and success.