My Favorite Grit-building Techniques
Last week, I shared a philosophy of mental toughness. I’m convinced that creating grit is the only way writers can become consistent and make real progress in their goals. If you missed it, read that post before this one.
This week, I’m offering five specific techniques for increasing grit. I’ve used each of these. I continue to use them. They make me more determined and more successful in my writing.
They might sound like torture. The things I list below used to intimidate me. They don’t anymore. (Well, maybe a little bit.)
You might try a couple of these if they scare you, or you might create unique challenges just for you. Find activities to build your own mental toughness.
I promise that you can become grittier. When you do, that power will increase your effectiveness in a range of areas—not just writing. Trust me; it’s worth it.
1. Start Difficult Conversations
Most of us are terrified of saying something wrong. Try setting aside this fear occasionally. Instead, focus on saying things that you believe need to be said, regardless of how they'll be received.
Doing this is like stepping outside of yourself and watching the situation unfold. It’s a fascinating experience. You will learn much about yourself and about other people.
An unexpected benefit is that the people that you speak to—even if they don't appreciate what you say—will likely respect you more.
Please understand, I'm not encouraging you to act like a complete jerk. I’m not suggesting that you should turn off every filter and say anything that pops into your head. I’m talking about overcoming fear and bringing things into the open.
Try speaking about topics you’ve avoided. See what happens.
2. Take on Leadership
I discovered this one accidentally. A couple of years ago, I received an increased level of responsibility at my day job. In a few months, I went from being an average employee who took orders to being in a leadership role that required me to give instructions to as many as sixteen people. This made a huge impact on my mental toughness.
Most of us avoid increased responsibility. To some extent, this can be wise. Added responsibility can mean increased stress and a decrease of time and energy for other things. The benefit of taking on leadership, however, is increased grit. Other benefits include improved ability to make decisions and growth in teaching ability.
3. Eat Simple foods
Often the practices that build the most grit are physical. An adjustment in our eating can make a huge impact on mental toughness. Several months ago, I simplified my breakfasts by making them the same every morning. I eat poached eggs with coffee and a green smoothie.
Most of us fear that repeating the same food will create monotony. What I’ve found is that this practice actually simplifies my day, conserves mental energy by eliminating choice, and builds grit through an act of discipline.
The flip side of eating is skipping it altogether. I while back, I started fasting for 24 hours every week. The first occasion was an accident. I was late for work. I didn’t have time to make a lunch, and I decided not to spend the time and money to go out. So I just skipped. It was a hard not to eat during my morning break; it was even harder during my lunch period, but I was also surprised by the way I felt as a result. For the rest of the day, I felt focused and strong.
The desire to eat when we are hungry is one of our strongest natural drives. It’s difficult to resist. Perhaps that’s why it’s also one of the most powerful ways to build our mental toughness.
If you haven’t ever fasted, give it a shot. Maybe start by just skipping lunch. Later, work your way up to a day or longer.
5. Take Cold Showers
This one was the most difficult to adopt, but it might be my favorite. I once hated cold water, but I’ve grown to view it like an energy supplement.
Athletes have used cold treatment for years, but now people outside of sports have begun using this technique for focus and and physical benefits. Imagine resetting your nervous system to sharpen focus—that’s what a cold shower or bath can do.
Here's the deal—almost everybody fears cold therapy at first, but with practice, it gets easier.
Try taking a shower with only the cold tap open. The first 10 seconds are brutal, but after that it gets easier. After about a full minute it doesn't really feel that cold. Focus on deep breathing and relaxation. Try thinking of it like meditation.
The amazing part is getting out of the shower. As you towel off and adjust to the ambient temperature, you will feel incredible. Your skin will literally glow. After the cold shower is over, thinking is clearer and I have an energy boost similar to drinking caffeine. I am fully converted to this practice.
(I should be transparent and acknowledge that cold showers are harder in the winter. I haven’t been doing them as much recently, but is still average once per week. Every time I do it, I’m glad I did.)
If you’ve read this, you already have guts. I want you to have even more. Here’s what Eleanor Roosevelt said about stretching ourselves:
That’s become a life philosophy for me. I hope it will guide you, too. Here’s to grit.