GRIT: Tools to Be Mentally Strong

April 9th, 2024
In: Anxiety

Do you find yourself easily thrown off? If something goes wrong at work are you ruminating for days or weeks? If you don't get a text returned do you feel so hurt that you can't study, go to the gym or even get out of bed?

Making space for feelings is important, yes. In recent years, however,  I see an increased number of people who are suffering from an inability to gather themselves, to muster, to gain perspective, and to carry on. If this resonates with you keep reading.

How do we get grit?

Here are some tools to add to your belt to help you increase your mental strength:

(1) Get in their Shoes. Understand that it's not all about you. If you are feeling hurt by someone not attending your function, are you so flooded with emotion that it's hard to think clearly and understand what is going on for the other person? Maybe the other person is busy right now with the start up of their sports season or with their new baby. Maybe it has nothing to do with you. Putting yourself in their spot and getting curious about what kind of person they are may help you understand and feel less pain. Less pain means being able to carry on with your life.

(2) Have at least 2 Passions. In the book On Mental Hardiness, authors the Harvard Business Review, Martin E. P. Seligman, Tony Schwartz, Warren G. Bennis, and Robert J. Thomas share research on grit. The authors provide evidence that people with at least two passions have more mental strength. If you are very passionate about your work and that's the only thing you really care about you can see how that is a set up to you. Of course you will be quite emotional if you make a mistake or get looked over for a project. If you add a passion for parenting into your mix, we know you have more grit. You can throw yourself into volunteering at your child's hockey games if work isn't great these days. If you are passionate about playing guitar you have something to focus on and feel good about at when you get a mark back that isn't great. Having at least two passions is a great safety net to help you be able to feel well more often than not.

(3) Get Perspective. Physically get away: take a trip or go to a beautiful building or garden or seaside.  Getting out of your house helps you get out of your head and helps you realize it's not as big an issue as you think. Talk to someone experienced. Find a counsellor, elder or mentor (someone who has lots of life experience) who can teach you new ways of looking at your problem.

(4) Take Risks to Practice Failure.  There is definitely a lack of risk taking these days. Whether due to protective parenting or whether a result of less practice at doing scary things during covid (e.g., no one had to do in person powerpoint presentations!) we are all less practiced at taking risks. We stay well within subjects or sports we know we are "good at." We don't smile at a potential new friend because we are deathly afraid of the rejection. As you can imagine, if you have never experienced failure as an adolescent it is going to hurt very badly when it happens for the first time as an adult. In The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Let Go so Their Children Can Succeed, author Jessica Lahey makes the case for a step back by parents so kids can practice taking risks and failing.

Small repeated risk taking helps provide confidence, helps practice failure and also contributes to opening yourself up to new and varies passions which we know is helpful for hardiness. Register for that slow-pitch sport or join that pottery class. Sign up for speaking engagements. Make eye contact with a colleague. Make sure you are putting yourself out regularly and expect that many of these chances will fail. After a few failures it will hurt much less. 

In this blog post I've described 4 skills to increase grit, or mental strength. If these skills sound very new or too challenging for you, that's ok. You don't need to start it all at once. And get support. Find a counsellor to support you while you challenge yourself at a pace you can handle

You can reach me at




Natalie Hansen
Natalie Hansen Counselling
490-555 6th Street, New Westminster, V3L 5H1

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