There are many times in life when we may be called upon to rise above adverse circumstances, to overcome challenges, or to keep moving forward—even if we may not have the inner strength to do so. This ability to find strength in tough times goes by many names. In the psychological literature, it may be termed “resilience,” while other may designate it “grit.” Whatever it’s called, the ability to rise above, to push through adversity is a prized trait.
Although the challenges one may face in life remain seemingly endless—financial hardship, marriage, or relationship problems, coping with the loss of a loved one (whether through death or another type of separation)—the ability to rise above adverse circumstances remains the common, positive theme.
Having “grit,” being “resilient”—it doesn’t matter what the label is.
Strength is strength.
That said, however, the question of how to find this strength is complex, as it occupies much space in articles, books, and in talk therapy. And although there may not be a “one size fits all “answer to this question, there are methods, theories, and approaches that can help guide our investigation, and ultimately our own development of these traits.
One key concept, resilience, has emerged in recent years. Resilience has been described in the academic literature as well as in popular books and magazines. Generally speaking, it is the ability of individuals to overcome adversity. Resilient individuals find strength—particularly emotional and psychological strength more so than sheer physical force—to overcome challenges. It’s not so much that they don’t experience hardship or disappointment. It’s that these individuals find it within themselves to rise above the hardships they encounter. Exactly how this is done remains within the individual.
Another related idea is grit. Grit is the means of cultivating passion and persistence toward long-term goals. Although grit can be applied things outside of the realm of overcoming hardship, it remains relevant because “gritty” individuals may keep going when others may give up.
Grit is the sword and resilience is the shield.
And this may be the essence of finding strength in troubling times. It’s hard not to evoke Nietzsche’s famous line: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” And although by now this advice seems trite, there’s still wisdom at the heart of it. What Nietzsche seems to be saying is once we face hardship and learn to cope, the next round may be slightly easier.
As noted in the outset, hardship has many bedfellows. Stress, worry, anxiety, depression . . . all of these undermines an individual’s ability to overcome adversity. Although learning how to be gritty and resilient is not a straight path for everyone, becoming familiar with these concepts can be a first step. We face challenges and threats almost daily, and although the level of seriousness may vary, having the correct mental tools, resilience and grit, may help to lessen how hard we are hit when the tough times do come. Finally, pain is random, indiscriminate, unforgiving—that said, however, when trying to find strength in tough times, it may be useful to start with the concepts of grit and resilience.