Grit: What It Is, How to Get It + Why You Need It

Grit has become an important concept in psychology lately. Not only because it can be a pretty strong indicator of success, but because it is something that every person can learn and do.

Grit refers both to someone’s self-control and their ability to stick with something, even during difficult times. The struggle with grit is that it sort of sounds like something you either have or don’t.

Enter Angela Duckworth, a psychologist who just last year published a book on this very topic. She states that not only is grit one of the key components for success in life, but that it’s possible to help yourself become “grittier”.

As a therapist reading this, I couldn’t help but think of recovery. Grit and the recovery journey could really go hand in hand, with one helping the other. There are 4 steps to building your grit – passion, practice, purpose, and hope. But where does your recovery fit within those steps?

1. Passion

At some point in your eating disorder journey, you decide that you want to get better more than you want to stay sick.

This could be before, during, or even after treatment. But eventually you choose recovery for yourself instead of having others push it on you.

You find an aspect of recovery, whether it’s sharing your story, opening up to a therapist, reading, listening to podcasts, journaling, etc, that really inspires you. When you find this part of your recovery, you are finding a passion for your recovery.

One way to help foster your passion for recovery is to figure out what parts of the recovery process really motivate you. Figure out what makes you feel excited about recovery and begin doing more of that. These are the things you can come back to when you’re feeling unmotivated, when the recovery process is feeling overwhelming or impossible. Go back to the things that make you happy, and re-ignite that passion you have for your recovery.

2. Practice

Recovery is something that you work at, all day every day. You constantly “practice” your recovery. You work at not listening to the voice inside your head telling you that’s it’s okay to engage in the ED behaviors “just this once”.

Another example is practicing eating in a more healthy way. This may be following an eating plan, practicing intuitive eating, or working with a dietician to determine what your body needs.

You also practice your recovery by engaging in self-care. Getting back in touch with your body and taking care of your mental health are things that can take practice.

Relapse, though it is not necessary for recovery, can be a part of this practice as well.  In dealing with a relapse you learn new triggers and warning signs. You also re-learn how to pull yourself back into a healthier place. It’s another chance to practice reaching out for help and being vulnerable.

One thing that can help with practice is taking a daily inventory at the end of the day. Go over with yourself what things you were able to accomplish for your recovery today as well as what things you want to accomplish or improve on tomorrow. Don’t berate yourself for not doing something, rather use that as a learning moment. A chance to improve on something the next day.

3. Purpose

Purpose is the why behind doing something. It’s the feeling that what you’re doing matters to you and others.  The purpose behind your recovery is going to be unique, just like you. But each person’s recovery does have a purpose.

Maybe recovery means that you will really be present for the people in your life. Or that you can pursue your dreams and make something about the world better. Maybe recovery means that you can turn around and help someone else struggling with ED.

Hey, maybe you even develop more effective ways to help others that are struggling.

Whatever it is, your purpose helps to motivate you. It helps you keep practicing even in times when you are struggling. Figuring out your purpose can sometimes take time.

First, ask yourself what excites you? What originally drove you to look for recovery? One of the best ways to help determine your purpose is to try explaining to another person why recovery is important for you in the future. They will be able to pick up on things you say that you might not notice and point you in the direction of your purpose.

4. Hope

Hope is the ability to keep going even when the path is rough or you face different obstacles. And of course, hope has a hand in all three of the other steps and is a fundamental part of your recovery.

It is hope that helps you continue on with the steps of your recovery. Whether it is therapy, your eating plan, or your self-care, even when you don’t want to.

Hope is what keeps you coming back to basics and continuing to strive for recovery after a relapse.

You can have hope for different things – for your recovery, for a better tomorrow, to help someone so they do not have to endure all you have. But the important thing is that you find and keep hope. You can foster your hope by reminding yourself both of your goal (recovery) and your purpose.

What can help foster hope? Try keeping something that will remind you of what drives your hope. Whether it is a picture, a talisman, or even a quote that you keep. Those things will help motivate you when you are struggling and will remind you of the “why” behind your recovery.

Recovery and grit seem to go together in a sort of symbiotic relationship. Working on your recovery helps you become more gritty over time. Working on your grittiness, even if it is in another area of your life, can help you throughout your recovery.

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