Action 101

What is Grit? Grit is the passionate pursuit of long-term goals and the commitment to fulfill a mission with unswerving determination no matter what the obstacles. (Discussed in more detail in Action 28)

A five-year-old child watched helplessly as his younger brother drowned. In that same year, glaucoma began to darken his world, and his family was too poor to afford medical help that might have saved his sight. Both of his parents died during his teens. Eventually he was sent to a state institution for the blind. Because he was African-American he was not permitted access to many activities, including music. Given the obstacles he faced, one could not have predicted that he would someday become a world-renowned musician. His name is Ray Charles.
(As cited in Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein’s book, The Power of Resilience)

Kayla Harrison won the first U.S. gold Medal in judo at the London Olympics. For three years, from ages 13 to 16, her judo coach had had illicit sex with her. As Kayla commented at a news conference, “It is no secret that I was sexually abused by my former coach. And that was definitely the hardest thing I had to overcome. I feel a necessity to speak out so that others in my position could take heart.”
(New York Times, August 3, 2012)

How does a 17 year old suicidal patient who was hospitalized for 26 months, at times confined to an isolated seclusion room because she engaged in self-injurious behaviors (burning her wrists with cigarettes, slashing her body, head banging) become one of the leading psychotherapists of the 20th century? Dr Marsha Linehan, who developed Dialetical Behavior Therapy for victimized, suicidal patients has told her story of her journey of resilience.

“I had to tell my story. I owed it to others. I cannot die a coward. One night I was kneeling in there, looking up at the cross, and the whole place became gold — and suddenly I felt something coming toward me,” she said. “It was this shimmering experience, and I just ran back to my room and said, ‘I love myself.’ It was the first time I remember talking to myself in the first person. I felt transformed.”

This transformation led Marsha Linehan on a journey of resilience to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and to becoming a clinical researcher who developed a treatment approach to help others who had similar experiences.
(New York Times, June 23, 2011)

The RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) ambush in Fallujah, Iraq destroyed his upper palate, and his left eye. It pulverized his left arm and right leg. It took sixty operations and six years to recover. One thing kept him going. He wanted to return to his men. He is now in command of 150 infantrymen, armor soldiers during their one year tour in Afghanistan. His men accept him, even though he can’t see out of his left eye, and he eats with prosthesis. He is the most seriously injured active-duty soldier. His name is Army Captain D.J. Skelton.”
(Esquire Magazine, Dec. 2011)

The RPG blast of her Humvee in Iraq collapsed her right lung and led to the amputation of her right arm. She reports that deep-down, ‘I have not changed. I don’t walk around all day looking at a mirror. I’m myself.’ But there are moments that catch her by surprise. ‘Oh my gosh, I only have one arm. I get anxious. It is never going to be easy.’ In spite of her injuries and losses, she went on to demonstrate courage, a warrior spirit, thriving in the recovery from war. She evidenced what Plato called ‘thumos’—a kind of ‘fire in the belly’ that is essential to the reintegration process. There is also anxiety, frustration, fatigue, phantom pain, restricted mobility, self-pity, embarrassment, shame and a wish to retreat. There is mourning for the past and what she once could do. And there is also happiness.

Through grit and a can-do attitude she is now the founder and CEO of a 100 person defense contracting firm which she started after leaving Walter Reed Hospital. She drives, uses a BlackBerry, plays tennis left-handed, and does yoga. Her name is Dawn Halfaker. You can read her account and others like her in Nancy Sherman’s The untold war. You can also see an interview with Dawn in a wonderful HBO movie, Alive Day Memories.”
(Sherman, 2010)

Quanitta Underwood was ten years old and her sister was twelve years old when they were regularly sexually abused by their father. The psychiatric wounds and suicidal attempts are told in a New York Times story (February 12, 2012). It is a story of resilience, as Quanitta (known as Queen), is the five-time U.S. female boxing champion and is rated fourth in the world, and is also competing in the Olympics.

Quanitta, a girl who felt like a nobody, but always imagined there was a somebody within. That’s why she called her website ‘Living Out the Dream.” I am a survivor of child abuse, and I became strong and independent. That dream carried me through a lot of days.”
(Barry Bearak, 2012)



We urge you to share ideas that you, the reader, your family members and your friends have considered helpful in achieving post-traumatic growth and improving health in each of the fitness areas discussed in the book. Add your ideas the comments section below.  Together, we can share with others to help everyone build more nurturing environments and improve lives.

“I understand that it took time to train myself for a mission of being a warrior and I must allow myself time to readjust to feeling and behaving like a civilian again.”
– D.B. (Soldier with two tours in Afghanistan)

“Everyday when I wake up, I can play a different CD in my head. Am I a “stubborn victim” or a “tenacious survivor”? That guy who raped me controlled three hours of my life with his knife to my throat as he raped me. I will not allow him to own the rest of my life.”
–M.R.(Rape victim)

“Over time, I learned to deal with my anger by placing emotional distance between myself and the Army. The Army is still an important part of my life, but I make a conscious effort now not to let it control my life. I set firm boundaries with the military – not working past a certain hour, living off post, respecting my wife’s wish not to participate in unit functions. In the Army’s place I now focus my energy on the things that make the most sense to me in my life – my family, my friends and my travels.”
– A.D. (Major)

“The calls keep coming. After 9/11, they never found my son’s body, but I keep getting calls whenever they find a body part. We filled his empty casket with reminders of the things he loved and buried them. I am collecting all of his body parts and I will have them buried with me.”
– S.C. (Mother of a firefighter)

“Being part of the group of women who were sewing the Survivors Quilt was very therapeutic. I bonded with them and drew strength knowing I was not alone.”
– J.S.(Incest survivor)

“There was a time I would have called a soldier a weakling or worse for seeing a counselor or going to a chaplain. And if I didn’t say it to his face, I sure would have thought it. I don’t see it that way any more. Multiple deployments have taught me that we’re all going to need help from time to time and it’s the strong ones that are willing to ask for it.”
– A.R. (NCO)

“As I stood at the gravesite of my comrade, I remembered that his obituary said, ‘He was an ordinary man who, by his words and actions, did extraordinary things.’ I had the thought that it was my fervent hope that the rest of my days are a fitting tribute to the life he never will have the chance to live himself.”
– A.D. (Major)

“Coming from combat to home is not an easy task. It’s hard to explain how I feel to anyone… I have changed a lot – some for the better, some for the worse. Before Iraq I didn’t have any plans or goals. Now I do. I might not be as happy as I used to be, but I am getting there. Some days it’s hard.”
– S.D. (U.S. Soldier after returning from a 15-month deployment in Iraq)

“I talked to my eight-year-old son last night. He told me about an award he won at school, and usually, I’d just say something like ‘that’s nice’. But I used the skill on how to show gratitude by asking a bunch of questions about it. ‘Who was there when he got the award? How did he feel receiving it? Where’s he going to hang the award?’ And about halfway through the conversation he interrupted me and said, ‘Dad is this really you?’ I know what he meant by that. This was the longest we ever talked, and I think we were both surprised by it.”
– M.L. (NCO)

“The whole time I was trapped on the roof of my house with my granddaughter because of the rising flood waters, I told her to sing Amazing Grace with me. I explained that God would answer our prayers to be rescued because we were on the roof and closer to heaven. We sang loud for two hours and then the boat rescued us. God heard our prayers.”
-G.B. (Hurricane survivor)

“The death of my friends in combat has made it hard for me to get on with my life. But I think what my buddies who died would want me to do. So I keep on going. I remember one buddy who I was close with would always tell me not to sweat the small stuff and appreciate the little things in life. I remember what he said. I guess that the best way to get back at those who hurt you is to live life well.”
– J.S. (Marine deployed to Afghanistan)

“I have developed a willingness to live with physical and emotional pain, while engaging in important daily activities. I have learned to control what I can and accept what I cannot control.”
– D.M. (Wounded amputee service member)


Please share your examples:

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