One of the catch words of the day is the word “grit.” As an educator, I have come to the conclusion that “grit” is more than some have recently defined it. Although, the current definitions certainly have correctly attributed the characteristics of “stick-to-it-ness” and “getting over hurdles” and “pushing” ourselves to achieve greater things, it is much more. There has to be a component of “resilience” involved in grit. Resilience is having the ability to get up after being knocked down and “resetting” or “renewing” our personal expectations no matter what the circumstance.
Resilience is hard to come by these days and many times must be taught. In my experience, it cannot be based strictly on a person’s “will” to have “grit” or “resilience.” If we have to rely on the “will” of a person to engage in a betterment process there is a high likelihood of failure. Many in society who find themselves in poverty have tried to “will” their way out for years. It does not work and most of us don’t have much “willpower.” If we did, more of us would be thin and fewer would smoke. Instead, we have to provide methods that are different than the ones that have been provided for years to people in poverty. We must renew a person’s HOPE! Fathers and Families Center attempts to return participants to a point where HOPE is an option for them. It is still their choice, but an option.
Our society has made it too easy to linger in poverty where grit and resilience are not necessary. HOPE has been removed from the equation. That is not a condemnation of anyone, it is simply an observation of a system that has collapsed on itself in an effort to be supportive. When we started the “war on poverty” and the “great society” we had great visions of “assisting” people to “overcome” their poverty and circumstance and to rise up to higher standards of living. We created programs that were designed as “stop-gaps” to poverty so that people could get educated, better trained, and achieve a better life. Then something happened. We kept adding to the programs in an effort to be more and more “helpful” and in the process we took away people’s need for “grit” and “resilience.” If things didn’t work out short term you didn’t need “grit” or “resilience” to pick yourself up and go at it again because there was another government program to be a refuge for you “temporarily.” But then “temporarily” became a little longer and a little easier and before long there was no need for “grit” at all. It was “easier” to embrace the “system” and get as much out of it as possible for as long as possible rather than participate in the “grind” necessary to overcome and apply “grit” and “resilience” to your life.
“Grit,” must be learned and expected. Sometimes we must “grind” daily toward the performance we wish to achieve. The organizations and the people who succeed refuse to let the “grind” defeat them. When things don’t go right on a particular day or an obstacle appears that hinders our movement forward we must refuse to stay down. We must reset or renew our high expectations immediately. That is not just the current definition of “grit” but the added component of “resilience.” I personally hang signs in my office that remind me that I will “not” be defeated although I may fail temporarily at some given point. Though, I have a Doctor of Philosophy degree, I can declare to you that I have had many failures along the way.
I can also assure you, we will get knocked down and we will fail to meet expectations if we set expectations high enough. My experience has been that organizations and individuals do not attain high levels of performance without high levels of expectations. These high levels of expectations must, many times, seem to be unattainable and fraught with risk because if the expectations are set lower the organization or person will gravitate to lower performance. If they are not allowed to fail, trying to reach higher levels of achievement, it will collapse on itself from stagnation and lack of growth.
Fathers and Families Center is founded on the premise that we can train or retrain our participants to embrace the predisposition of “grit” and “resilience”. We teach them that education, training and taking their proper position as a parent and spouse is a cornerstone to their success in life and that they can attain those goals. At the same time, we provide the mechanisms to make it happen in their lives if they chose to engage in our High School Equivalency classes, job training, Fatherhood Training, Healthy Marriage Training, and College Readiness Programs. Once they see the possibilities, it is much easier to encourage them to buy into the notion of applying “grit” and “resilience” to their everyday life as a means to becoming self-sufficient and acquiring a new sense of HOPE!