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Where Purpose Is in Pitfalls and Potential Is in Possibility

11/27/2013 11:16 am 11:16:21 | Updated Jan 27, 2014

Click here to watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.

The perspective that life is a marathon, not a sprint, endangers the belief that the result will provide immediate gratification. To a culture that runs on making results readily available, this notion may present challenges as it confronts the need for immediacy embedded in the expectations of our generation. Could it be that this striving for grit also relies upon the acceptance of delayed gratification? Though desires seem to beg for a response in the moment, it takes perspective outside of momentary satisfaction to note a more fulfilling reward that awaits when endurance and perseverance embark on the long bumpy road of hard work to achieve a weightier end.

Shortly after watching the TEDTalk this week, featuring Angela Lee Duckworth and her study of grit, I overheard the chatter of my children discussing plans for the money in their piggy bank. My daughter was ready for a trip to Target to purchase anything that the dollar bins had to offer. My son, on the other hand, though painfully desiring every cheap toy marketed to his age group, was working very hard to save for a ticket to Disneyland someday. This ticket may take awhile with his grand total of five dollars and thirty-two cents, but the acceptance of the time it may take to save his money, while resisting temptation for cheaper rewards, shows observable grit.

The difference in my children, in this example, is that my daughter wants a concrete reward now, and my son is willing to fight the challenge of time and temptation to save for an abstract idea, with the hope that his perseverance will pay off. It is notable that he believes he has the capacity to achieve this goal even though his means in the moment are lacking.

Perhaps fighting through challenges with a marathon perspective stretches one to regard the capacity of personal potential as it aligns with an abstract vision outside of concrete awareness in the moment. According to Carol Dweck's study, the TED speaker notes, significant evidence reveals that if a student is able to see how the brain grows when presented with a challenge, they are more likely to persevere. In other words, the ability to visualize the capacity for growth promotes the persistence required to overcome, despite hardship.

So, to produce grit, a person needs to be intrinsically aware of their capacity for growth and the challenges that lie ahead. Moreover, one must learn to appreciate the process as an opportunity for a deep, rich journey where pitfalls clarify purpose and potential embraces a landscape of possibility.

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