Coping Military Life

Just Being Resilient Isn’t Enough: Why You Need to Get Gritty

When you close your eyes and think of the word “resilience,” what comes to mind?

I think of picking myself up by my bootstraps, of bouncing back from difficulties. I think of recovery and healing, of coping and reintegration. Sometimes resilience brings us back from traumatizing events, and other times it helps us recover from less serious struggles.

Resilience” is a word we encounter a lot in the military life, and none can deny that making resiliency resources available is both important and necessary.

Resilience also happens to have a friendly, but strong-willed neighbor: Grit.

Resilience and grit have something in common. They both acknowledge a reality of life: Challenge. While resilience is about recovering from challenge, grit is about persevering through challenge.

When I asked a group of spouses how “resilience” and “grit” resonated with them, my friend Brandi likened resilience to a “rubber band” and grit to “granite.” Resilience, she said, is a “malleable response” to forces outside of our control, whereas grit is a “determined force of commitment.”

More in the group agreed that resilience involves a reaction to a challenge, and grit involves more resolve. My friend Jenny then suggested that “resilience develops grit over time.”

The discussion fascinated me – and Jenny just might be on to something – so I wondered: how might our mindsets change if we adopt an attitude of grit?

Grit says, “I’ve got this.”

In this life, we definitely face our fair share of rough roads. Frequent separations, moves, and long deployments make rough roads a regular route on our life’s map. It’s amazing it hasn’t gotten more clever and started charging us a toll.

But when we stand in front of a road that looks especially daunting, we don’t have to contemplate the ways it will make us trip and stumble. Instead, we can contemplate the ways we will persevere despite the inevitable falls.

If there’s one thing I know about my military spouse sisters and brothers, it’s that they’ve got the strength, tenacity, and stamina to persevere through rough roads, making it to the end stronger, better, and able to walk back in to carry others out.

So when you first hear the door “click” shut behind your service member, thus commencing deployment… when you get orders to an undesirable location… when your service member assumes a position that you both know will impose a taxing work schedule into your family life… remember:

You’re standing arm-in-arm with the rest of us, and on top of the shoulders of giants who’ve persevered and made it before you.

You’ve got this.

Grit can inspire a belief in oneself.

Grit happens to be a hot topic in the field of education these days. Angela Duckworth’s rather famous research, which draws from Stanford University’s Carol Dweck’s work, found that people’s belief in their ability to improve (growth mindset) is linked to their commitment to follow through to their end goal (grit).

In other words, when we believe in our own potential, we’re more likely to persevere to the end.

What might this mean for you, a military spouse?

It means that not a single military spouse has to be naturally talented at being a military spouse in order to be successful at it. You just have to believe you have the potential to grow – and then persevere.

So, when that deployment starts, or you’re about to PCS, or your service member’s work schedule is overly taxing, and you begin to question your ability to handle it, resolve to face those challenges with grit. Avoid fixating on your doubts; keep your mind on your desired end. Throw yourself into the challenge with a will to test your abilities, to recognize that some days you’ll feel like you’re pushing a boulder up a mountain and other days you’ll feel like you’re soaring above the same mountain.

And when you reach the end, with dirt on your face and scrapes on your knees – your little doses of resilience as you built up true grit along the way – you’ll be fueled all the more by the realization that you had it in you all along.

You’ll believe in yourself.

Grit empowers you.

When those deployments come, PCS’s knock on our doors and work calls buzz our service members’ cell phones, it’s normal to feel out of control. In this life, we can’t make real plans, expect our opinions to matter much, or draw a firm line between work and home. And the reality is, that’s not about to change.

When we’re caught in the throes of a challenge, we can get bogged down in rather crippling feelings of resentfulness, self-pity and frustration. But if we approach challenges with grit on our brains, we might be less likely to feel overpowered.

We can accept that the deployment will bring us to tears sometimes, recognize that the PCS involves some unwanted change and acknowledge that certain jobs steal more family time than we want to give – but we can resolve to persevere through those challenges by intentionally turning away from the feelings that want to overtake us. Instead, we can turn toward the behaviors, actions or solutions that will help us reach our desired outcome.

My friend Brandi put it like this, “Grit is… [a] steadfastness to the life you are committed to having.”

Being gritty isn’t easy. It takes guts, stamina and a ton of stick-to-itiveness. But, the reward is that you own every step you take.

You won’t back down.

The best part, I think, of embracing a life of grit is that is keeps you on your feet. Even though it knows full well that what’s ahead of you might be tough, grit says you’re a strong spouse with a will to make it to the end, and you’re not sitting down until you make it.

So the next time you’re standing there, with the winds of challenge whipping around you, remind yourself that you can get gritty…and then get going.

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