Best of JN: Grit Through Growth

“With optimism and creativity to fuel resiliency, the courage to risk failure to strive towards your evolving mission can strengthen your resolve and grit while improving your success.”

The other day, in two separate conversations with friends, the concept of “grit” came up. Each of us had read (or are in the process of reading) Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. 

Our conversations revolved specifically around sticking through our research in college, but the concept of grit naturally stretches much, much further. Essentially, grit is passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals, and is a key trait to achieving success.

Of course, this concept probably resonates with many equestrians. We have all experienced the commitment to our partnerships, our goals, and our passion for years, if not for most of our life. We have stuck through the high highs and the low lows to persevere on our path towards achievement.

But what happens to grit when our goals change? 

My last event before my focus turned to show jumping. Photo courtesy of Gillian Warner. 

Humans aren’t stagnant, and neither are our priorities or passions. Change and growth are part of what makes life so interesting. The more we learn, the more we shape who we are… and sometimes, it no longer makes sense to hang onto our previous goals. 

Where does grit fit into growth? Is having both possible? 

When I first dove into equestrian competition, I was six years old. However, it wasn’t until I was 12 that I narrowed down what I wanted to focus on: I wanted to do eventing. With eyes turned towards Young Riders, a professional eventing career, and 5* international competition, I based so much of who I was on the goals I set for myself at that point in time. And I worked for it. I committed every day after school to training, traveled on the weekends, and took working student positions away from home.

Fast forward a few years though, and I realized my passion had shifted away from eventing. Perhaps the increasingly large, solid obstacles were a contributing factor to this decision, but like some other riders, I decided to shift my focus. This was a massive wake up call for me: while I was excited to explore new avenues, I didn’t know what that meant for who I was, my goals for myself, and my grit.

Long story short, I felt as though I was giving up, when in fact I now see I was giving myself room to grow into an evolving passion — one that excited me on my path to become the best horsewoman I could be.

Pursuing goals that excite me has made me happier and improved my grit to stick with those goals, even when it gets tough. Photo courtesy of Gillian Warner.

Grit and growth can and do connect. Beyond sticking with long-term goals, Duckworth identifies a few other characteristics which are key to grit, including courage, conscientiousness, resilience, and excellence over perfection

Plans don’t often work out as perfectly as we expect them to. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t mold into something excellent with conscientiousness and an organized approach. With optimism and creativity to fuel resiliency, the courage to risk failure to strive towards your evolving mission can strengthen your resolve and grit while improving your success. 

Just because goals (like riding in a five-star event, in my case) change, that doesn’t mean you lose your grit. With a commitment to your success as a horseman or horsewoman… or as an individual, more broadly, having the courage to shape the goals and path that excite you will allow for a healthier and more sustainable long-term commitment to your goals and life.