Personal Insights on Grit and Resilience

woman joy happyI used to loathe pushups. Wherever I inserted them into my workout, I dreaded them. I tried starting with them, ending with them, and placing them somewhere in between other exercises, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t like doing them, and I didn’t think that would ever change or that I’d get better at them.

Recently, I noticed that I don’t feel that way anymore. Now I enjoy them. What did I just write? Yep. I enjoy them. In fact, my body now craves them.

There’s an experiment I’ve been running for about 14 months now. It’s called the “do it and don’t think about it” experiment. So far, it seems to be working. Case in point – pushups. I’ve been conducting this experiment with actions big and small.

Let me explain.

I wanted to take an improv class, but I also knew I’d be a bit intimidated by it. Well, I signed up, showed up, and participated every week. Whenever I thought about what I was doing on stage, I became self-conscious. Whenever I stopped thinking about it, I had a lot of fun and stopped taking myself so seriously.

I did the same thing with ToastMasters. Unlike most of my TM peers, I actually love to speak. In fact, I signed up for the club because I missed public speaking and wanted to do more of it, that, and I was giving a high school commencement speech, and I wanted to use the meetings as a way to practice my speech. It was terrific. I just did it. I planned. I tweaked. I wrote. I learned. Bottom line. I showed up and did it.

There’s a book, Constructive Living, by David Reynolds. His primary argument is that life is about doing, about showing up, about living.

I spent most of my life in school. I’ve got a doctorate and three master’s degrees, and I’ve been a teacher and school administrator in K-12 and graduate environments. I don’t regret any of it. I loved it. But a life spent in school can mean a life spent in your head. Thinking, analyzing, critiquing, synthesizing – these are all terrific skills. The thing is, though, they can prevent you from living.

I’m finding that when I stop over thinking and get into the doing – just show up, even if only for a few minutes – something shifts. I stop judging. I try something new or I show up for those pushups. All of a sudden, I’m able to see how all of that thinking gets in the way. If I do through the thinking, then I start to see how it’s just a lot of chatter. The doing is what matters. The showing up.

That’s how the pushups got easier. That’s how improv became more fun. I let go of the thinking and immersed myself in the doing. Along the way, I increased my capacity for the doing, for the showing up. I tapped into my grit and strengthened my resilience.

Sort of like writing this blog post. I just showed up, tapped into what I was feeling and started writing.

What are you thinking about doing rather than just doing? Do. Make. Build. Stretch. Bend. Walk. Laugh. Smile. Hug. Do something. It’ll change everything. Up your grit. Increase your resilience.


  1. mrdardy on September 14, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    How did you end up giving a commencement speech? I’d love to ‘hear’ that story.
    Pushups? ugh
    I have finally come to a sort of peace with running, but I have a hard time imagining pushups being enjoyable.

  2. Gayle on September 15, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Hi Jim!

    Was a great honor to be asked to do so by a former colleague, very good friend, and head of school there. I had taught there earlier in my career.

    Thrilled to know you’re out there online and eager to keep up with your blog!