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Every year 40 pre-selected runners from around the world take part in an insanely grueling 100-mile trail run through the mountains of Tennessee. The so-called Barkley Marathon, which was humorously featured in a 2015 Netflix documentary as “the race that eats its young,” is the equivalent of running up and down Mount Everest in the span of just 60 hours.
The race is so grueling that typically only one or maybe two (if any) will end up finishing. Most competitors — from among a very select group of the world’s top marathoners — will drop out. What’s also evident is that each of them has a different personal goal and their own idea of success and failure. Each of them has their own reasons for running, too.
There is at least one thing all of the runners have in common, however, and it’s “grit.” Grit, as Angela Duckworth defines it in her 2013 TED Talk, is “the power of passion and perseverance” — and it’s a power that’s measured over an extended period of time in the face of adversity.
What’s the best predictor of success? Grit, according to Duckworth — and it’s also a reliable predictor of success in recovery. On this note, here are three signs you may need more grit in your recovery:
1. You lack passion for your recovery
People can suffer from a passion deficit no matter where they are in their recovery. I’ve worked with clients just starting out in inpatient treatment who have no motivation for being there. They lack passion.
In other cases, an initially strong passion for recovery can fade as the years go by. Even someone who has been successfully sober for 10 or 20 years can gradually forget what first motivated them to get sober. They can lose that sense of conviction and purpose that’s so central to keeping on in the midst of life’s challenges.
2. You find it difficult to set positive, future-oriented goals
Grit entails having a sense of purpose; and while purpose doesn’t have to be something grandiose, like resolving to run the Barkley Marathon, purpose loosely involves knowing where you want to be, who you want to be, and/or what you want to be doing, not just in the immediate moment (when, for example, a craving may hit), but one month from now or a year from now.
Even making a list of what you want to accomplish during the day or week ahead, and then setting forth to complete those various activities and responsibilities, is itself a form of setting positive, future-oriented goals. Sticking with your commitment is rewarding, after all. When you’re able to look back on your day or week and see that you’ve been able to check off those various items on your list, that’s rewarding. And it’s also an indication of grit. Grit requires some level of expectation that your hard work and effort carries an intrinsic reward, and that this sense of personal fulfillment and accomplishment is greater when you’ve had to work harder and longer to achieve your goal.
3. You’re getting tired and tuning out
When I talk with clients about the nature of recovery, sometimes I use the analogy of sailing a big ship in a new and different direction. Your ship may have been sailing in one direction for years during active addiction. One day you choose to change course and go another way, by embracing abstinence and recovery. But turning a big ship is hard and demands that your hand be on the wheel and that you stay vigilant. If you get tired, tune out and let go of the wheel, the wheel will turn back in your original default direction. That, too, can be an indication you’re in need of more grit.
Got an insight regarding grit and what it requires? I hope you’ll share it with the rest of us!