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The thing that separates being chronically ill from ‘just’ being sick is how long the pain, fatigue and overall malaise impact your life. By definition, chronic illness refers to health problems that persist for 3 months or longer, and do not just disappear. Even if a full recovery is possible, it will take a lot of time and effort. And that’s exactly why you need grit.
Grit means staying motivated and determined over long periods of time to reach long-term goals, even when you experience adversity, failure and other disappointments. According to Angela Duckworth, author of the New York Times bestseller ‘Grit’, you need a combination of passion and perseverance to keep pursuing your purpose. Her research found that grit is a stronger predictor of success than how smart or talented you are. After all, you still have to consistently put in the effort to achieve your goals and overcome the obstacles on your way.
And the best finding? Grit is not something you’re born with or not, it’s a mindset that can be learned.
To be gritty when you’re chronically ill, it helps to know your purpose. Maybe you want to reach your own definition of recovery, but working towards other important life goals like getting you degree, exploring the world, learning a fun skill and becoming a parent count too. Having a clear intention but flexible plans will help you take one step at a time in your desired direction, while still taking the unpredictability of living with chronic illness into account.
But to keep going after your dreams for such a length of time, grit requires you to view life as a marathon, not a sprint. You have to physically pace your energy, keep focused mentally and most of all, stay strong emotionally. You need to set very doable subgoals – being able to walk one block, study for 30 minutes or play tourist in your own town – so you have small wins along the way. You should also build supportive habits, so you don’t have to rely on willpower alone. And don’t be afraid to ask for help or rally your cheerleaders – everyone needs support every now and then.
And finally, to keep moving forward despite the debilitating health problems and other obstacles you face, you have to have hope in your heart. Deep down, some part of you has to believe that things will work out in the end, even if it’s not the way you’d hoped they would or if it takes much longer than you’d thought. So try to be kind and optimistic when you talk to yourself – your internal dialogue has more impact on your health and happiness than you may think.
For those tough times when even grit doesn’t cut it, the Finnish language and culture has a concept that might help you – sisu. Sisu runs even deeper than grit – it’s the mental toughness that spurs you to take action against overwhelming odds and carry your burden with unbreakable perseverance. The gentle power of sisu can be your light in the darkness in times of crisis.
Stay hopeful and determined to keep going after your goals and dreams with these 15 grit quotes.
Learn more about how you can develop grit in your life in the bestselling ‘Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance’ from Angela Duckworth and the upcoming manual ‘Gentle Power: A Revolution in How We Think, Lead and Succeed Using the Finnish Art of Sisu’ from Emilia Lahti.
What helps you to cultivate grit in the face of chronic illness?