grace under pressure

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Lately I have not been living up to my name. There has been no grace shown to my loved ones or myself as work and life seem to keep throwing lowballs all around.

I’ve been reading/hearing a lot about grit lately. Passion and perseverance in the pursuit of long term goals. In the freakonomics podcast on the topic, grit expert Angela Duckworth says there are four traits that gritty people have in abundance: interest, practice, purpose, and hope.

And I’m hung up on hope. Or lack thereof.

I am not a particularly gritty person. My score on the grit scale was a measly 2 out of 5. It comes out to about the 10th percentile of the general population.

Two things stuck out to me as I listened to the podcast, though. The first being the idea of reference bias. We are our own worst critics, and the standards we judge ourselves by are probably much higher than objective measures. When I think about how much grit it takes to finish medical school, run a half marathon, and start over after a divorce,I am reminded that my 2/5 is relative, and also an underestimation of my grittiness. Yes, I get distracted easily and new projects will always be more fun to me than following things through to completion, but that does not make me worthless.

Which brings me to revelation #2: Shame is not a productive emotion.

In yoga, they are always telling you to let go of things that do not serve you. Shame is a heavy load that most of bear unnecessarily. I know it’s broken me more times than I care to count.

Duckworth goes on to say that it’s important to learn to substitute nuance for novelty. It will always be human nature to prefer the thrill of something new. But there is importance and even pleasure in the nuances. I think once you let go of the shame, it’s easier to focus on the interest and the purpose of your goal.

So shed your shame, feelings of guilt or worthlessness or not-enoughness. Feel yourself become a little lighter. We all need a little grace sometimes.

grace under pressure

A good day

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Photo: Spotted in Zilker Park, Austin

Maybe not for the U.S.A.*,

But I had a good day. A great day.

My failure to speak up during a meeting last week at my internship resulted in me blowing off class today and spending it at a middle school, helping eighth graders learn their purpose and practice gratitude.

It sounds so extremely lame, and I’m sure some of the students felt that way (they sure acted like it, anyway), but I wish something like that had been offered at my school. I saw these baby adults** stand up and read their purpose statements, recognizing their gifts and wanting to use them to make the world better. And it gave me hope.

We also talked about gratitude in a way I want to incorporate more in my life. They wrote down a list of 15 things they were grateful for***, and next to each, they wrote down what they were going to do to express their gratitude. I know that love without action is meaningless. But, it’s a logical next step I frequently fail to take.

So let’s take it a step further. Express gratitude rather than just being grateful. Bake those cookies for your friend who always listens to you vent without judgment. Take a walk to stretch your hard-working body. Sit outside in the sun after a rainstorm and do your part to keep the air clean. Not because we have to, but because we want to.


*Politics should not be reduced to an asterisk, but it’s the most I can muster without falling apart right now. Here’s a link to call your representatives. Participation is required of responsible citizens: https://5calls.org/
**so many of them in Lululemon yoga pants for some reason. When did that become a thing in middle schools?
***One kid wrote down “lemon” 15 times. I didn’t ask.

A good day