Use COVID-19 grit to develop long-term professional success

Grit can help us persevere during increased challenges, like the coronavirus, and pivot to meet our long-term goals

It seemed like any ordinary, sunny, weekend afternoon. But lately, nearly nothing is normal. I was taking my kids to our neighborhood park for exercise during shelter-in-place mandates due to COVID-19, and I stumbled upon a chalk message someone else’s child had left on the sidewalk that said, “We can do hard things.”

The simplicity of the statement somehow felt profound, and the sentiment was inspirational. It got me thinking: we CAN do hard things — but only when hard things present themselves and we are left to dig deeper — to unearth our GRIT. It is times like these when we learn just what we are made of. 

Merriam-Webster defines grit as: “firmness of mind or spirit; unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.” During the COVID-19 quarantine, we have had to find ways to adapt to the sudden, and most likely enduring, changes to nearly every facet of our daily lives. These changes seem so difficult because they run counter to our evolutionary beginnings and our strong sense of self advocacy.

Social distancing is stressful

Human beings are meant to be social. Whether we are introverted or extroverted, our community is the foundation of our society. It has contributed to humans’ success and longevity.

American National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner has identified socializing as a major contributor to longevity. In his groundbreaking book, “The Blue Zones,” Buettner identifies seven places in the world that have the highest concentration of centenarians (persons who live to be 100 years old). In all of these “blue zones,” lifestyle factors, such as what people eat, what they imbibe, and what religions they practice, vary greatly. The common denominator? Social interaction! In simple terms, our lives depend on it. Social distancing is akin to being denied something significant to our survival to our primitive brains. 

Home education is hard 

Multitasking makes us inefficient; we lose valuable time and focus switching between tasks. For us working parents, educating our children has put them on a precarious tightrope, especially if they are very young and require significantly more instruction, guidance, and frequent redirection. Every day, minute by minute, we parents are navigating what is best for our children and best for our companies, and many are sacrificing evenings to compensate for this new dimension of multitasking.

For perfectionist parents, this can be brutal. Most of us are not trained as educators, nor do we have educational resources available to us to keep young minds focused and learning. However, this doesn’t insulate us from the pressure to do so, it is our children’s education, after all. There is a lot at stake here — with lasting implications.

Working from home can feel less productive

Distractions, connectivity issues, lack of routine and privacy, blurring of professional and personal lives, and the inability to set definitive working hours, are just a few reasons why we feel less productive.

And some jobs just do not translate. If a career requires face-to-face interaction and being physically present, we must essentially create a whole new way to conduct business and achieve results.

Many of us are also having to embrace new technologies in a moment’s notice. I liken it to assembling IKEA furniture without the manual: We can and we will, but it will come at the price of increased time expenditure and a bit of frustration.

On-demand news and data induce anxiety

We live in a time where we are constantly bombarded with news feeds from numerous outlets, including social media. And the information seems to be thrown at us even more during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Studies show this ongoing news consumption inhibits our moods, releases stress hormones like cortisol, contributes to physical ailments, and gives us a negativity bias. We are hard-wired to avoid danger. Watching the news makes us feel informed and prepared for such dangers. However, having limitless access can become counter-productive by interfering with our physical and mental well-being.

But grit can help

To varying degrees, COVID-19 has magnified the mental and emotional load through inflated anxiety, fear, depression, and personal and professional pressures. Grit can tremendously help us persevere during increased challenges like we are currently experiencing. It is also a skill that we can cultivate and utilize on a broader and long-range scale for success in our professional lives.   

Angela Duckworth, the author of “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” asserts grit is more important than IQ in determining success across all disciplines. Additionally, she discovered grit is not necessarily innate and can be learned. She purports the top five pillars of grit are courage, conscientiousness, endurance, resilience, and excellence.

How grit has helped us transform during COVID-19

During this time, we can choose to view this period as an opportunity to become stronger as people, professionals, families, and communities.

In my own profession in the death care industry, I have witnessed funeral professionals using grit to transform their businesses. Social distancing and capacity mandates for end-of-life rites have opened the door for new and robust ways to celebrate life that have the potential to extend participation to many more people than traditional mediums can offer. 

Foster Funeral Home in New York has exemplified resilience by offering families a creative way to celebrate life via drive-thru funerals. Other firms are demonstrating excellence in the face of these challenges by utilizing online streaming services to help client families memorialize their loved ones. In the past, service attendance depended on work schedules or proximity, but virtual funerals have increased guest lists.

The death care industry's conscientious response to the challenges of COVID-19 is a clear demonstration of how we can become stronger, more innovative, and progressive when we utilize grit and face adversity head on. 

Difficult circumstances will always exist, but they don’t determine our perspective; we do! We can use this time when so many things seem uncertain and beyond our control to shift our focus to our long-term goals. We can redirect our efforts to combat fear by practicing courage, conscientiousness, endurance, resilience, and pursuing excellence as we weather this storm. These are the tenets of grit and the ingredients for long-term success. What better time to hone these skills than this unique time in history? 
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American Enterprise Group or its subsidiary, Great Western Insurance Company. This article may contain links to third party websites, but Great Western Insurance Company is neither responsible nor liable for their content, accuracy, or security. Review our Terms and Conditions to learn more.

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