Earlier this fall, my partner who is an assistant professor in higher education and teaches organizational leadership, was reading a book called “Grit” by Angela Duckworth. She asked me if I knew what it meant and I foolishly replied, “do you mean ‘grits’ the breakfast food?”.
Silly me! According to Paul G. Stoltz, Ph.D., GRIT is “your capacity to dig deep, to do whatever it takes – especially struggle, sacrifice, even suffer – to achieve your most worthy goals”.
My partner said to me thoughtfully, “you know …you have grit.”
“Really? I do?!”
Now I was intrigued and wanted to know more about it. Angela Duckworth describes GRIT as the power of passion and perseverance. It’s what the most successful people in the world have in common.
Many people think that talent is required to be successful, and yes, that’s a key ingredient. But what’s even more important, is effort. Real success comes from continued perseverance and effort over a long period of time, towards a specific goal.
GRIT, is also an acronym for Growth, Resilience, Instinct, and Tenacity.
Growth in the GRIT context refers to the likelihood that we will seek fresh ideas and perspectives to help us succeed at that one thing. I remember when I was starting out in private practice, one of the catalysts for me was paying attention to people who were already doing the kind of work I wanted to do. I was so curious about exactly what they did and how they got there. For years, I paid attention to successful, charismatic, exceptional people in their field who I respected, admired, and whom I believed had a high degree of integrity. As you dream about, or begin to launch your private practice, consider your level of openness to new ideas and ways of looking at the world of entrepreneurship.
You probably don’t have to think too long or hard to remember a time in your life when you experienced adversity. As counsellors and therapists, many of us have had life experiences that tested our resilience and provided an opportunity for growth – leading us into the field of psychology. I remember in my twenties, I was a fierce combination of adventurous, stubborn and impulsive. It led to many wonderful journeys, but also to a few harrowing trials that tested my resilience. Each time though, I bounced back and learned from my experience. I’ve come to realize that resilience is a necessary ingredient for being an entrepreneur. You will hit roadblocks, setbacks, and downright moments of panic. But if you persevere, and don’t let those moments define you or keep you stuck, you are well on your way to embodying the elements of GRIT that are required for success.
Along my path towards building and sustaining a successful private practice, I encountered a lot of, shall we call them … “nay-sayers”. If I had a dollar for the number of times people told me I was crazy, or being unrealistic, that I was too headstrong or idealistic, I wouldn’t need to work! And if I had another dollar for the amount of times I was given advice that was simply wrong like, “you need at least five to ten years of experience before going into private practice,” or, “private practice is the exception rather than the rule – you will struggle for years before experiencing any success”… I would have a nice retirement nest-egg by now (which I don’t, by the way!). What kept me going against all of those nay-sayers and criticism? My “Instinct”. Something in me just told me they were wrong. I had such a clear vision in my mind and heart of what I wanted to experience, and I was determined that nothing was going to stop me from achieving it. Instinct in the GRIT model means going after our goals the best way, not the hardest way. And that is exactly my hope for every other therapist headed into private practice – that even though it’s not easy, we don’t need to do things the hard way to achieve success!
Lastly, GRIT requires “Tenacity”. Tenacity is the perseverance, persistence, never-say-die, never-say-quit dimension of grit. The difference between Resilience and Tenacity is that resilience often implies the existence of one or more obstacles to overcome, whereas tenacity is a felt-sense of determination and drive that exists within you. When I was growing up, I always felt like the black sheep in my family. As an adult, now I know it’s because I had a fire burning inside of me. I was curious, passionate, and ambitious. I was eager to learn about the world, find answers to the things that I saw people in my family suffering from, and create a joyful life I felt proud of. I’ve come to learn that being a successful entrepreneur requires a certain amount of tenacity—an inner fire that burns even when you’re scared, or things get tough.
I read an anonymous quote the other day that said, “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”
I thought, “yes … that’s exactly it.”
The truth is—being an entrepreneur and running your own private practice is a lot of work. But when you have the elements of GRIT, a community of support, and a teacher, mentor, or someone who has gone before you to lean on—you have all of the necessary ingredients. Because when you get there, you’ll have achieved something that not everyone can lay claim to, and you’ll be living the life you’ve always imagined.
From someone who has put in the work and created a successful private practice, my personal experience is that it’s worth every trial and every penny! Strap on your GRIT boots, find a community of support, and pick a few people who you want to emulate or who can guide you. You’ve got this!