Gritty Environments

Grit Part 3, Chapters 10-13/Conclusion

By Olivia Baker

Posted on January 26th, 2022

Before coming to Atlanta Track Club, the longest run I had ever done was 10 miles at 7:12/mile pace. That day, I remember getting up at dawn to avoid the grueling heat of Texas in the middle of June 2020, putting together my most motivating playlist, and setting my mind on the goal of completing this run at low 7 minute per mile pace. I had failed a few times before over the last several weeks reaching 7 miles and then 8 miles before falling off the desired pace, but on this day, everything went my way, and I reached my goal. Fast forward to a little over a year later in July 2021 as I chatted with my soon-to-be new coaches Amy and Andrew, and you can imagine the shock on my face when they told me that within a few months at Atlanta Track Club, I'd be completing that same run at that same pace, but it would be easy and conversational! Easy and conversational pace for me at the time was easily over 8 minutes/mile. Nonetheless, "Watch!" Coach Andrew once said to me, "having teammates to do your long runs with will make all the difference. You'll get to chatting and sharing stories, and next thing you know, the time will fly by. You won't even realize how fast you're going." This is the essence of today's blog. We can grow grit within ourselves by cultivating our interests, practicing deliberately, keeping our sights on our ultimate purpose, and sustaining hope through the ups and downs as we discussed in last week's blog…or we can use our environment to help us cultivate grit by placing ourselves in situations that require it and surrounding ourselves with gritty people.

We develop grit when we commit to activities that are both challenging and fun for us. One personal anecdote from Duckworth that I'll take with me from this book regarding finding such activities is her "Hard Thing Rule". In her household, everyone must choose to commit to at least one activity that is hard (defined as requiring deliberate practice) and once the activity is chosen, they cannot quit until a "natural" endpoint. In other words, no quitting because you had a bad day or because you don't feel like it that morning, you've got to stick it out to the end of the season, project, recital, or other natural endpoint. For her (outside psychology research), that hard thing is yoga, for her husband it is running, for her kids, it has changed periodically over the years across several sports and extracurriculars. Whether it's running, knitting, dancing, or anything else, committing to a hobby is a good way to start cultivating grit because it places you in an environment that reinforces that gritty culture of dedication.

To that end, joining a team of gritty people further encourages our grit development. Throughout all of college, I used to do my long runs mostly by myself and they tended to be shorter and harder runs. Getting up early in the morning to run lots of mileage (and enjoying it?) was something that only long-distance runners did in my mind. However, as Duckworth puts it "…the thing is, when you go to a place where basically everybody you know is getting up at four in the morning to go to practice, that's just what you do. It's no big deal. It becomes habit." (Pg# 498). I'd go even further to say that after a while, those habits, even more powerfully become part of your identity.

Now, a few months into my time with Atlanta Track Club, I've come to find that Coach was right, the ladies and I knockout a 10+ mile run almost every week at that low 7 minutes/mile pace as though it is just another day. Being a part of a culture that normalizes running far and having fun with it along the way has helped me develop what it takes both physically and mentally to be able to complete that task. So if you're trying to become grittier in pursuit of your goals this week and things get tough, you don't have to go it alone, lean on your friends, teammates, coaches, teachers, and whoever else may be part of the community around you to help you do it.

Discussion Questions:

1) What do you think of the "Hard Thing Rule? What is your "hard thing"?

2) In what ways has your community encouraged your development of grit? How has that impacted your daily habits?

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