Today I stepped on a lubber by mistake. (The giant, brilliantly colored grasshoppers, native to Florida, are very slow-moving and stumbly, which is how they got their popular name “lubbers.”) After I stepped on it, the lubber just lumbered off as if nothing had happened; as if a very large, heavy, clumsy, absent-minded two-legged animal had not just landed on its body. I’ve seen that happen before. Lubbers are tough! (Still, I wouldn’t recommend testing that out by stepping on them on purpose.)
The defining attribute of lubbers, other than their distinctive appearance, is the fact that they seem to eat pretty much ALL plants. I have yet to see a tree, grass, or shrub they won’t nibble on. Early in the season, when the plants are still babies and the rains haven’t arrived to help accelerate their growth, it’s kind of terrifying to witness. I remember my first year in my house, wondering if any of my threadbare plants would survive the lubbers (and yet not wanting to kill the creatures).
Well, most if not all of the plants came roaring back to life bigger and better than ever. This morning I had the thought, “Maybe trials and tribulations in our human lives are like lubbers in a plant’s life.” Or, as the popular saying goes, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger!”
I chose to see those lubber-surviving plants as a visible example of grit; sheer determination of life-force. This is a quality I’ve had to work at cultivating in myself.
I’ve lived a privileged life. I grew up middle-class, not particularly wealthy. But I had the kind of parents who made huge personal sacrifices for their kids. I might even go so far as to say they were a bit “helicopter” or “snow-plow” before those terms even existed: The thought of their kids experiencing any kind of pain or adversity was so unbearable to them, they went to great lengths to protect us from anything bad.
There were times in life (such as when I slacked off on schoolwork and got D’s) when I probably should have been allowed to just flat-out fail and experience the consequences of my laziness and entitled attitude. Maybe instead of a parent-teacher conference to smooth things out and keep me in the “advanced” classes, what I needed was information about vocational schools and other non-academic paths. Or simply being moved to “regular,” non-advanced classes. Or being asked to help fellow students instead of being allowed to harbor an arrogant attitude about being “gifted” (that word really makes me cringe). Or (and?) my parents warning me that I’d be on my own for college tuition if I didn’t straighten up.
But my parents didn’t crack down in any of those ways. They wanted an idyllic life for their kids, and they were doing what they felt in their hearts was best, and who could blame them? Not me!
And besides, somehow my siblings escaped becoming spoiled or entitled, so obviously there were other factors at work than parenting choices.
Hey, we all have our character deficiencies. And one of mine has been lack of grit.
That said, I have learned that grit is a quality anyone can cultivate, even me. Here are a few things I’ve learned:
• There were actually times even in my very young life that I displayed grit. Such as when I was still a baby in the crib, I learned how to move from one side of the room to another, in my crib, by rocking the crib on its legs across the floor! (I kid you not. My mom must have freaked the first time she saw that!) I’m lucky I didn’t tip the crib over! Or later on, in my late 20s, when I worked really hard to learn Japanese, and also worked really hard to understand and overcome my mental-health issues. What this tells me is that sometimes if a person seems kind of lazy and not very “gritty,” they just haven’t yet found a goal that lights them up from within. If you or someone else are working toward your goals half-heartedly … maybe they aren’t really your goals, but someone else’s.
• Or, your willpower could be being sapped by chronic pain (physical or mental). That’s a huge drain. Take care of your health. Look into the root causes of chronic pain.
• Get inspired by others! I have been absolutely blown away at how much grit some of the people around me have. Their example inspires me to kick it up a notch. This includes examples from history, such as the Shackleton Expedition. It also includes other species, such as lubbers; and so-called “invasive” plants.
Below I’m starting a list of books and other resources that have helped me cultivate grit; boost my determination. Hope you find them useful!
• Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, book by Angela Duckworth. Also check out her TED talk on YouTube.
• “Life Challenges” video talk by Harry Palmer (creator of the Avatar(R) Course). Profound yet simple, and entertaining. He talks about how all the best rewards in life are “upstream.” (It’s about the 10th title down the page. All his other talks are excellent too.)
• Basic Will Minicourse – A set of exercises to strengthen one’s will and determination. It’s like core strength training for the mind! I use these exercises a lot. The Basic Will minicourse is part of the Avatar Course materials. (Avatar is a nine-day experiential course to increase awareness of how one’s own mind works and how to live deliberately. I took the course back in 2005 and got so much out of it that I went on to become an instructor of it.) Basic Will is one of seven minicourses. For developing will and determination, you might also enjoy the Life Alignment and Attention Management minicourses.