When psychologist Angela Duckworth uses this term in her book, Grit:The Power of Passion and Perseverance, she means “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” When I was growing up, my Dad would say to me “Pull up your bootstraps!” Or “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” The message was be tough and wear boots with straps so you can pull them up!

At any point in the semester, you may feel you have so much to do and you’re working so hard to get it all done. You may be straining, stretching to the finish line to reach your goals, trying to find grit to endure to the end.

I remember a conversation with an anxious and depressed student years ago. Her father had told her she needed to “pull up her bootstraps; there’s only four weeks left! You can do it!” She sat in my office with tears in her eyes and said, “I did. I pulled them up, and they broke.” As she said this, her fists were clenched, grasping at invisible but torn bootstraps. She was trying so hard and needed a break or a break through.

Maybe you have reached this point. Here are some thoughts about grit from Dr. Duckworth.

  • Develop a fascination. What do you find fascinating in your studies? Lifting up your head beyond the daily grind and focusing on what is interesting can help you develop grit.
  • Aim to improve yourself every single day. A little bit of specific attention to the task at hand each day gets us to the finish line. Plan to leave some time for day-to-day implementation.
  • Greater purpose: To develop grit, connect it to a higher purpose. The grittiest people see their activity as serving a greater purpose. Identify your greater purpose and the goal beyond the assignment.
  • Growth mindset: You can think about your capacities as fixed or malleable. Thinking about our abilities as something we can change or grow helps us develop grit. If not, we give up more easily. Do you see yourself as unable to develop? Or as someone with limited capability? We can all use the reminder that we can improve and get better at something if we develop a growth mindset.

When I’m struggling to make it to the end, I need a witness and a champion. I need someone to tell me I’m working hard and that what I’m doing is tough. Name it! Then I need someone who says “You’ve got this.” My father died several years ago, and I miss him as a witness and a champion. Even more so, I miss knowing he is praying for me. I and my colleagues in the Student Life Office pray for you to thrive at Westmont, develop grit, and get to the end of the semester! Consider us and the community at Westmont as witnesses and champions for you.

Learn more about these three practices that will help build resilience.


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