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In her book, The Grit Factor: Courage, Resilience, and Leadership in the Most Male-Dominated Organization in the World, air force pilot Shannon Polson lays out what is needed to meet the challenges we encounter in life.
It is not just about surviving or overcoming challenges, but using them to develop the life skills and confidence we need. Throughout the book, she offers exercises that can help us understand our core purpose.
Here are some of the things she indicates we need to know.
Our story matters.
By understanding who you are and why you do the things you do, you are gradually discovering your core purpose.
Our stories shape and mold us and hold within them traditions we hold sacred.
They define the values we have and why we have them.
Create a timeline of your life
Stories help make sense of ourselves and others. And science research bears that out. An exercise she suggests is to write down a timeline of your life from birth to present. On that timeline, write down all meaningful events, both positive and negative, with positive events above the line, and negative events below it.
You determine what makes an event meaningful to you. Next to the positive events, write down what you did to help make those events successful. Next to the negative events, write down what you learned as a result.
Within our stories our strengths are revealed.
They help us understand our past so we can make better use of that knowledge in the future. Our stories help us answer the question, “Why do I believe and do the things I do?”
Spend some time reviewing the different aspects of your life and define the core purpose in each of them. This will give you a better understanding of your attitude and approach to life and will help you work through the difficulties you might encounter.
Shannon identifies six major aspects of resilience: “Self-awareness, self-regulation, optimism, mental agility, identifying one’s own and others’ character strengths, and connection.” When we have grit we not only have resilience, but the courage to act and lead.
We become optimistic about life.
By keeping an open mind and being mentally alert, we are able to think and learn and use new information to work through problems.
We develop tenacity and perseverance as we work to make things happen.
We don’t give up after the first unsuccessful attempt. These are skills we learn. They become a mindset and belief that with hard work, training, and persistence we can make even the most daunting happen.
Resilience is important to maneuver through life’s challenges.
Self-regulation includes taking responsibility for our impulses, emotions, and actions.
Prepare ahead of time for tasks and consider the limitations and challenges you might encounter. Re-think how you view failure. It’s not that we might fail, but rather what we learn when we do.
Failure becomes an opportunity to grow. Mistakes become stepping stones to a new way of doing things.
Don’t let fear take over – fear becomes a form of resisting a better way to do things.
People who are adaptable can move forward. All life experiences are opportunities to learn and adapt.
Don’t feel personally attacked or believe you have become a victim. Victims feel they have no power, feel overwhelmed, and unable to move forward.
How can you use adversity to your advantage?
First talk about your problems, rather than just how you are feeling about them or deflecting them. Focusing only on feelings will keep you in a state of stress and anxiety.
Identify the core issues involved and look at each one separately. Focus on what you can do instead of what you feel you can’t do. Find some humor in the situation.
Instead of denying or running away from adversity, face it. Develop that attitude of grit. “I can do this.” You might be surprised at what you are capable of.
When reflecting on events from the past, don’t just focus on the times you failed, but also, the times you succeeded. Maybe it took a grit you didn’t know you had. Maybe you just kept trying. Bring forward all the things you learned in the process. And then, remember if you made it through before; you can do so again.
Believe in yourself. Refuse to let adversities tear you down. Believe in God. Accept his love and promises to us.
Identify your values. Adversity teaches us about ourselves – there are important takeaways from working through them. What do you need to make it through? Reach down inside you and find the elements to make that happen.
You have more courage and resilience than you realize. Visualize what you want to have happen.
As we encounter and work through difficult times, our confidence and optimism will increase. Keeping an open mind when solving problems can lead to new possibilities or ways to get things done.
Sometimes harsh times seem to go on forever. Consistent repeating of affirmations can help alleviate feelings of insecurity and uncertainty.
We may have been stunned or caught up in surprise in the moment by something totally unexpected, but we can use our thinking to work through them.
Each time we are confronted and work through difficulties, we are learning how to reframe, modify, make alternations, adjust, and maybe even redesign our goals. It’s called adapting.
We hear a lot about coping. But we can do more than just cope.
We can get back up on our feet and revise and amend our way forward. We can not only survive but make this work to our advantage. Stand up for yourself and don’t be afraid to look out for yourself.
We will be challenged throughout our lifetime.
But each challenge offers us the opportunity to reach deep inside ourselves and develop resilience and grit. It is when we are challenged that we learn how to live life fully and become more than we ever thought we could be.
We learn better ways to problem-solve and find answers that are right for us.
As we work through trials, we gain confidence that leads to positive future goals.