G is for Grit and what it takes to cross thresholds

Orginally posted on 2 May 2017.

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In the online course this week we were talking about thresholds, those critical choice points in our life and/or our development. It coincided with some research I was doing for an upcoming presentation on how to move beyond our assumptions about resistance to change (a phrase I don't find useful). It got me to thinking about what happens for people (ourselves included) before, during and after important threshold experiences.

I believe that organizations face the same issues—which sheds light on why their change efforts are often not as successful as they had hoped. For yourself, think back to the last big shift you made in your life or the one you are in now if that is the case. What role has resistance played for you? What frustrated desire or wholehearted wish can be heard in your story about this time? What if resistance were your teacher not your enemy?

The work by Angela Duckworth and her colleagues on grit is useful here. They define it as "perseverance and passion for long-term goals." People with high grit are characterized by a loyal determination and a focused direction; they are able to sustain their motivation and effort despite experiences with failure and adversity. These attributes are particularly important for people when they are going through a big change.

So what might this mean in terms of how we work with our clients (either a person or an organization) as guardians at their proverbial gates? It means recasting resistance as a resource that reminds us to pause at the threshold to ensure we are prepared (without getting stuck in the trap of 'enough'), to discipline ourselves to remain present to what is unfolding (so we can make finer distinctions), and strengthen ourselves with the grit to stay focused on (and adapt to) the new course ahead.

Tips for each phase of the threshold process:

  • Before a threshold: Cleanse yourself of distractions, release what you don't need, hone in on what you truly want (and why)

  • During a threshold: Surrender to the unknown, allow yourself to be carried by the process, access the new energy

  • After a threshold: Get what you need to persevere, give yourself permission to be a beginner, remember your north star

What do you need most right now? How about your client?

Sandy Lurins