For many, myself included, work, life and home sometimes feel hard right now. It’s the demanding nature of each… the never-ending to-do list, the lack of variety and change of routine. But I also know that hard is good. Hard builds resilience and willpower. Hard teaches us to try and try again. Hard builds confidence. Hard provides the lessons of life and foundation for a strong work ethic.
I recently finished listening to Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. The topic was not just interesting because it’s a valued trait in today’s world, but also because it’s incredibly relevant during this time of social distancing, hybrid learning and fear. The insights and lessons really struck home. The last few chapters focused on raising children who can do hard things and I think so much of life right now is doing just this. Doing hard things is about persevering, even on the hardest days and when there is no end in sight.
As I think back on my childhood, I got my first job at 14. A neighborhood paper route. I even sold new subscriptions to earn a VHS copy of Armageddon. I was incredibly proud. At 15, I got a second job working at the Dairy Queen. They provided money to pay off your college debt and my mom was definitely thinking ahead. These experiences created a strong work ethic early on and really shaped my approach to both work and school in the years to come.
Now a parent myself, I hope that I can provide similar experiences for my children. I want to challenge them to try new things and keep going even when something feels hard. I firmly believe in committing to an activity until a natural stopping point, instead of just changing your mind along the way. Often, it takes time to find joy in something that is at first hard. And just because you get better, doesn’t mean it isn’t still hard. But there is great value in doing what is hard, what pushes you to think and act differently, to try and fail and try again, to grow both physically, mentally and emotionally.
Arguably, we are all doing hard things right now. Whether working from home while caring for children or managing a job that has spiraled out of control due to the pandemic (if you work in marketing and communications, you know what I mean). Maybe you are missing friends and family after so much time apart. No matter what you find hard, committing see through the hard ultimately makes you stronger.
One of my biggest takeaways from my recent research into grit and perseverance, was the concept of a ‘hard things rule.’ Each family member must pursue a hard thing (this includes the parents). The hard thing can be something you also enjoy but it has to push you, likely outside of your comfort zone. You cannot quit the hard thing on a bad day or because you missed something more fun. You can only quit at the end of a session or when it’s time to renew. Should you decide to quit, it’s time to find a new hard thing.
Currently, my girls are taking gymnastics. They both love it and they want to work at it. At home, they are constantly practicing what they learn and in class they try and try again. I love watching this commitment to learn and grow. To keep trying even when it’s hard at first. I hope to continue this practice as they grow because I think perseverance and resilience are more important than ever, especially as we navigate a period in time that is full of uncertainty.
Today, we are constantly being put in a position to do hard things. But this is where growth happens (outside the comfort zone). And I for one want my children to learn to get comfortable with the uncomfortable because hard is where the magic happens.