It’s Monday, January 4th and it’s safe to say that every fitness center is flooded today with new members taking their first step towards their new and improved self.
Unlike many gym regulars complaining about this fact, I’m super PUMPED for those new (or returning after some time) to fitness. There’s something so powerful about the decision to create change, break free from old habits and to create new ones. And I will celebrate that, and you, all day long for taking action and giving yourself the gift of fitness! Yay you!
My plea, if are among those starting new health routines, is that you will proceed with Gentle Grit.
No, this isn’t a term I read about in a psychology book but as a former perfectionist, disciplinarian and lifelong yo-yo dieter, it's something I discuss with my clients often. I want to share it with you in the wake of all the recently penned New Year’s Resolutions in hopes you might approach your resolution differently this year.
What is Gentle Grit, you ask?
Let’s start with Grit. Grit is defined as the perseverance and passion for a long-term goal. Those with grit are passionate about their big, hairy audacious goal and have an unrelenting hardiness and resilience to forge forward through obstacles and challenges.
Sounds great right? Who wouldn’t want to have grit?
Even if you don’t consider yourself a ‘gritty’ person, we are all familiar with that overwhelming feeling of passion towards a big goal. Likely, you felt it as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve or when you woke up on Jan 1. The slate was wiped clean and your willpower tank was FULL.
But, chances are, you read the part about above “hardiness and resilience to continue on through obstacles and challenges” and you immediately discounted yourself from the ‘Has Grit’ Camp because like me, you’ve started and stopped more diets and fitness plans than you care to count. Because, life. You got pregnant, the Holidays happened, you started a new job and couldn’t find time to eat right and train, you got married and past the end goal of looking perfect on your wedding day, you got injured or you just plain ol’ self-sabotaged yourself into believing that you don't deserve to be lean or athletic. So, you stopped and waited and waited until the next time you shamed yourself enough into starting again.
On the flip side, you might be the poster child for Grit. You’ve got it down. You work harder and longer than those around you. You conscientiously set long-term goals and ain’t no one getting in your way. Like Will Smith, you would rather die on the treadmill than fail -
“The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be outworked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me, you might be all of those things — you got it on me in nine categories. But if we get on the treadmill together, there’s two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die. It’s really that simple…” – Will Smith
As someone who is naturally ‘gritty’ with strong levels of discipline and willpower, I can say that a big serving of grit can come with other unappealing sides like a lack of self-compassion and a desire for perfection, both of which, no matter how strong our resilience, can lead to an all-or-nothing mindset and a whole lot of negative self-talk.
Finding the sweet spot…Gentle Grit.
At Be PowerFULL, I believe in the power of grit. The good news is, we have complete control over developing and softening our grit so we not only achieve our goals but enjoy the process, living fully.
So, how do we find the sweet spot? Practice these two mindfulness mantras daily.
"I will win the little battles and they will make me stronger."
Developing grit is a daily practice. Every single time you answer the call for your 5am alarm to workout, when you do ONE.MORE.REP when your muscles are aching when you say no to the muffin at the coffee shop, when you walk by the end-aisle display at CVS with the sweets, when you avoid the bread at a dinner out. Those moments when you could let yourself off the hook or dig in, those are moments where you take ownership of your path, your choices and your outcomes. In the words of Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit”. Grit is earned, go out there and earn it.
"I will invite ease into my journey."
There IS rest for the weary…at least if we want to avoid burn out. A MAJOR component to performance gains and weight loss progress in the gym is stress-management. Like developing grit, inviting ease into our world is a daily practice.Programming mental and physical rest into our program like we would a workout is key; a bath, setting aside time to read, making time for prayer and meditation, as well as gentle movement like foam rolling, stretching, strolls are all wonderful ways to balance grit. Gritting our teeth (pun intended) with no regard to our humanity and need for rest and recovery is a recipe for failure.
The obvious irony in Will Smith's words above is that he may "die trying". My wish for you is that you focus on developing grit but realize that your willpower tank is yours to manage. Too much grit = burnout. Too much gentleness and ease = self-sabotage.
To Gentle Grit,
xo - Jess