Man with camping backpack looks through binoculars with beams of optimism

Bringing Grit to the Parkinson's Journey

After years of Rock Steady Boxing, exercise classes, support groups, conferences, and one on one conversations, I believe that grit is key to a better life with Parkinson's.

What is grit?

"True Grit", the movie (John Wayne version), introduced many of a certain age to grit. Today, Angela Duckworth's TED talk "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance" has brought it front and center. She talks about persistence, but she says there is more to it. "I do mean hard work and not quitting things when they're hard, but I also mean passion," said Duckworth.

I have been thinking about her grit talk recently during these uncertain times. What is this harsh-sounding little word? For some of us, Parkinson's has led to the feeling of loneliness, apathy, denial, and more. The required isolation has made it worse. During this time, we need to work hard to maintain physical, emotional, and mental health. Can grit help, can we learn courage, and will it help us through the tough times?

Recognizing grit in people with Parkinson's

While watching a fellow boxer at Rock Steady Boxing, it occurred to me she is trying her best. But more importantly, she has grit. She has passion. Then I thought of others who seem to be dealing with their situation with hard work, research, outreach, and desire.

As I look back over my seven years with Parkinson's, the people who seem to be doing the best all have one thing in common - they are the possessors of grit. They appear to have a high degree of acceptance of their fate. I am not an expert on grit or Parkinson's, for that matter. But experience and observation have convinced me of this. If we can get past the denial and apathy, there is much that we can do to make our lives more liveable.

Can we acquire grit? Yes, I believe we can, to a certain degree.

Is there such a thing as unrealized grit? I think so. I have seen this pattern several times: denial, hopefulness, reality, and acceptance. Then, hopefully, comes grit. I see people help themselves by showing the grit to do what is necessary. They are working to their potential, whatever that may be.

Find a mentor & follow their path

Maybe most helpful in this process is having a gritty mentor and follow their path. Find that person who seems to be living the best life with Parkinson's and emulate them. Also, find a goal and then work at it. It is not easy to live with Parkinson's. But it can be done.

I see a nice lady who comes into Rock Steady Boxing training sessions in a wheelchair with a smile on her face, works out to her potential, and leaves with the same smile. She exhibits a certain toughness with her effort and perseverance. She has true grit. If we can acquire that same grit, we have a chance to live better.

Do you have a story about grit and perseverance?

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