Being comfortable in the uncomfortable…without breaking your nose.
My 15-year old daughter broke her nose during a soccer match a few months ago. After watching the collision from the sidelines, mother’s intuition told me she wasn’t quite right, despite her insistence on finishing the half — and with a few great plays. Time is not on your side with a broken nose. The longer you wait, the more swelling occurs; often, you have to wait a week for the swelling to subside before it can be reset — unless you act quickly.
We made it to the doctor within an hour of game’s end, and my daughter faced a choice: Reset it right then and experience the most pain someone can experience in a split second OR wait for anesthesia, but run the risk that the delay could mean more difficulty resetting the nose. Her choice was swift and calm. And while I squeezed her hand for that fateful minute, the doctor put her nose back to perfection and I thought: This girl’s got grit! What a gift. Or, is grit actually learned behavior?
What is ‘grit’ and why is it important in life and work? It’s courage and resolve; strength of character. Synonyms include fortitude, toughness, hardiness, determination — and interesting words like pluck and mettle. It’s obvious why these would be good attributes when navigating life and work. Mental fortitude gets you through hard days, allows you to absorb and process feedback easier, and pushes you to uncomfortable places where you learn and grow.
Her experience reminded me of an article I read in The Wall Street Journal titled, Why Resilience Is Good for Your Health and Career. These sentences still resonate with me: “While some people have natural coping skills, we know that resilience can be developed. You can give people the resources to build within them the power to bounce back from adversity.” In my daughter’s case, she’s been a tough kid since birth. However, there’s no doubt that hours of soccer training each day in wind, rain, snow and dark have strengthened her fortitude. She has listened and learned by being open minded to her coach’s counsel. And, obviously, she’s willing to push through times of discomfort.
As a leader, it’s important to cultivate grit. The idea isn’t to have roles in an organization so tough that they require grit, but rather provide proactive tools and training to develop and nurture it. The concept of mindfulness in the workplace has recently become a hot topic. It’s a way to be present-minded and conscious of self and others without judgment. And it’s a great way to build grit.
Here are a few ways to practice the mindfulness that leads to ‘grit’ in the workplace:
1. Listen — Listen to others. Listen to yourself. Stop multi-tasking and be present.
2. Be open minded — There’s a reason an entire industry has developed around personality tests. People are wired differently, they navigate work and life differently, and they communicate in various ways. Embrace diversity in backgrounds and thinking.
3. Be comfortable in the uncomfortable — This is one of my favorites. As opposed to running from obstacles, run toward them. I believe in the adage: If you are comfortable, you’re not growing. (But, if you think you’ve broken your nose, don’t live with that discomfort. Get to the doctor!)
4. Develop perseverance — Provide yourself with the ‘fuel’ to go the distance. You’re more likely to persevere if you prepare for your goals, reward your actions and take breaks when you need to unplug. Just three minutes of walking around the office can change your disposition and heighten concentration for hours.
5. Be thankful — Share your gratitude. Be kind.
In the end, grit comes from sticking with your goals and executing. And being present and mindful enables you to go the distance. Do you agree grit can be learned? If so, how do you practice and nurture it in the workplace?