Ms. Duckworth was working on grades for her students and discovered, to her surprise, the smartest students weren’t doing all that well while those who wrestled with each new challenge were managing to get A’s. She, like any other teacher and even student, knew that effort mattered, but Ms. Duckworth hadn’t counted on how much it mattered.
With this epiphany, she went back to school to study what she termed as “grit.” Her simple definition is “passion and perseverance for long-term goals". After studying everybody from spelling bee contestants to military student to sales representatives and teachers she uncovered four key psychological assets: interest, practice, purpose and hope.
These four give us an interesting grid for thinking about the importance of grit and our role as leaders/pastors with youth/families working their way through the challenges of how they respond to trauma.
INTEREST: Our greatest motivation for learning happens when we are actually interested in the subject matter. Perhaps I might have been more interested in math had someone told me how the concepts I was learning were going to help me or even somebody else in the future. The first step of “Alcoholics Anonymous” is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” In admitting a need and desire, there is interest. Kids and families who have experienced trauma may or may not know how to get from where they are to the new normal. We can be their support and advocate for helping them move forward because of their interest.
PRACTICE: We have all heard, “Practice makes perfect.” I don’t know about the perfect part but no one can argue against practice making us better. K. Anders Ericsson did research finding it takes about 10,000 hours for one to become an “expert” in their area of interest (Source). The work of responding to trauma and helping our youth/families through recovery will take work. It will require our “check-ins” with them and walking with them through the tedious work of moving forward in health.
PURPOSE: Trauma is disruptive to one’s sense of trajectory and purpose. Gritty people are able to fight through the default of defeat and get back on the road to finding meaning and purpose in their lives, not only for themselves but how they might come alongside of others as well.
HOPE: When one experiences trauma there can a feeling of despair. It seems difficult to imagine how life could ever be beautiful again. In the moment, “back to normal” seems impossible. In reality, “back to normal” really is impossible. However, moving on to a new and healthy normal is achievable, over time. To inspire this hope, Angela Duckworth points to Carol Dweck’s work on the “growth mindset.” The “fixed mindset” assumes that everything (character, intelligence and creative ability) will stay the same. The “growth mindset on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence, but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.” (Source)
Likewise this growth mindset is important in trauma recovery. We can walk with youth and families waving the banner of hope and cheering them on through the process.
I would add one more psychological asset to this list: community. Community is key letting these other assets bloom. In the face of trauma and the experience of life, in general, we would not call one to “slug it out” on their own. Reaching out and gathering others to walk arm in arm is key to the grit process.
How might this look in your setting?
To hear the interview with Angele Duckworth go to here.
* Learn more about how you can lead your congregation before and after trauma by becoming an ICTG Affiliate. Affiliates receive exclusive digital access to dozens of ICTG resource, including the Spiritual Direction Resource Guide and Assessment Guide. Learn more about our affiliation program here.