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G is for Grit

Voicemail from mom: “I was reading this article in the Seattle Times and I said to myself, ‘That’s YOU! That’s Marilyn! That’s what you have … GRIT!!!’”

What my mother was very excitedly telling me about was an article that appeared on the front page of the Seattle Times sports section last week (Mom: “I had to call you because I know you don’t read the sports section!!!” She’s right; I don’t.)

The article, written by Jayson Jenks, was called “True Grit,” and it’s linked here. It tells how Seattle Seahawks head football coach Pete Carroll watched a TED Talk given by psychologist Angela Duckworth in which she describes her quest to identify a key marker for success. Watching that TED Talk was the best 6 minutes I’ve spent in a very long time. I invite you to do the same.

The gist of her finding – what Pete Carroll found so compelling – was that success can be attributed to something Duckworth refers to as grit. She says grit is perseverance and passion in pursuit of long term goals. Grit, defined as such, is a better predictor of success in any field than intelligence, good looks or even talent.

Grit is tenacity. Grit is mental toughness. Grit is refusing to give up, even when everyone around you is doing exactly that. Grit is pushing to be the best you can possibly be, no matter what. Grit is inviting failure, so you can see what your limits are.

 What does grit have to do with permanent weight loss? EVERYTHING!

When I listened to the TED Talk, when I read the article, I knew that – just like my mom said – this is exactly what I have done, without realizing that’s what I was doing!

Somehow I tapped into this source of drive and determination. I guess you could say that the reason I lost 120 lbs. and have keep it off for 7 years, in the face of failure, temptation, other people’s opinions (and even pushback from my loved ones on occasion), is because I found grit.

But how did that happen? And how do others tap into their grit? Is it teachable, or are you just born “gritty”?

In the TED Talk, Ms. Duckworth ends by saying she doesn’t really know how to teach grit, but I think I know. I know, because I’ve lived it. I wasn’t born this way. I didn’t live the first 44 years of my life gritty.

I became gritty.

I believe, the way people become gritty – that is, achieve a high level of success at something that is very, very hard (in our case, weight loss) – is by learning that they have the capacity to succeed. Once you believe that you have the capacity to succeed you can channel your energies into making it happen.

When I began having some weight loss success early on, my hopelessness about ever being anything other than fat began to melt away. I started to feel better, physically and mentally. As I felt better, I tried harder. I pushed myself more. I learned that, not only was I capable of losing weight and feeling better, I was capable of a very high level of fitness and overall health.

My life is now on an entirely new trajectory because I learned to become gritty.

So guess what, Ms. Duckworth? There’s your answer. To teach grit, people must see themselves as capable. They must be able to envision a future beyond their current circumstances. It’s only because they can see this future – maybe one that nobody can see– that they’re willing to work so hard to achieve it.

That’s where I believe grit comes from.

And that’s how you lose weight. Not just for now. Not just till your class reunion.

But forever.

Certainly, I am proud of myself and what I have accomplished, but mostly I am so grateful to have unearthed this inner drive, this fierce passion. This grit. It is a quality I believe we are all capable of tapping into: NFL players, psychologists in search of answers to age-old questions, and middle-aged closet-badass phenoms.

You know what? Somebody has to be awesome; why not us?!?

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