Two Words for a Fulfilling Life

6/5/2021 12:13:02 AM

An annual highlight of mine is visiting an area 8th grade class that uses our What I Wish I Knew at 18 curriculum for its Life Skills class. The students submit their questions in advance, and I answer as many as I can. They have an uncanny knack of asking great questions, and this year was no different. My favorite one:

“What are your two tips for a fulfilling life?”

Simple as that! Yet profound and deserving of my best thinking, for sure. After some serious contemplation, I came up with my answer: Grit and Gratitude. Each powerful in their own right, but simply magnificent in combination.
Let’s start with grit. Growing up, this word had a distinctly negative connotation—a cross between grimy and dirty. However, nowadays, in a new form, it’s made quite a comeback! Success experts, as well as my own research and observation of leaders, point to grit as a quintessential ingredient. 
Although definitions vary, I describe “grit” as a composite of vision, focus, effort, and resilience. For example, using an Olympics analogy:

Importantly, each is required for our goals to be achieved. Whether one is an Olympian or a student setting goals for adulthood, grit is the secret ingredient to making dreams come true. Like you, I’m excited to hear the stories of grit that we’ll be treated to in the upcoming Summer Olympics (I’m reminded of the film, “Miracle,” that recounted the US Olympic Hockey team’s Herculean upset of the Soviets in 1980.). And I’m likewise inspired to hear the stories of how our graduates showed grit to achieve their goals. What a great class/home project to have your students/children share their experiences where their grit made all the difference!
But a life of fulfillment isn’t just about achieving goals, is it? 
Have you known people who, despite their circumstances, are filled with joy? And others, who despite their circumstances, are sourpusses? Like most, I am drawn to people who lift our spirits through their own. They remain positive, hopeful, and peaceful through thick and thin. You see it in their countenance—especially their eyes and mouth, and in their words, expressions, and attitudes. 
How is it that some people are joyful (which to me is a notch above happy) and others less so? Is it genetics or from some inner catalyst?
I believe that gratitude is the secret ingredient to joy—and living a fulfilling life. defines grateful as, “warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful.” What’s not to love about that? 
Note that I’m not just talking about the “being happy because I just won” kind of gratitude. Rather, some people have a knack or nature of thankfulness from the moment they awaken. They look for the good in people and things. They’re appreciative of their lives and opportunities. They give credit to others before themselves. And no matter how gloomy the times may be, they find a way to be thankful for what is good and maintain perspective. They don’t allow the bad to crowd out the good. Whining and pity parties are not in their vocabulary. 
When I find myself in a slump, it’s usually a sign that I need to increase my gratitude quotient. I remember what I’m thankful for: God, family, friends, country, those who sacrifice to keep us safe, caregivers, teachers and coaches, nature, beauty, art, health, sports, recreation, love, compassion, wonder, and opportunities to use my gifts and talents to make the world a better place. Just to name a few. I’m sure you have others to add to your list, too. 
So, to be joyful, we first need to be grateful.    
The Daily Double
But what happens when you have both? Simply put, it’s magic!
I’d like to introduce you to someone who, despite being only 19 years of age, already has this “2G Factor” down pat. Her name is Rachel Heck. She just accomplished a rare feat of winning the Division I Women’s Golf Championship as a college freshman (from Stanford University). Rachel has accomplished much in her young golfing career, but she is even more impressive as a person if that’s possible. Rachel exudes joy and it clearly stems from gratitude. 
Rachel dedicated her victory in honor of a servicewoman, Victoria Pinckney, who, as a 27-year-old mother, died in Kyrgyzstan while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom. Before her round, Rachel wrote Ms. Pinckney’s name on her scorecard to help maintain perspective during this pressure-packed event. Rachel ultimately won the championship by one stroke. 
Our world needs more Rachel Heck’s. In case her name is new to you, here’s a link including her post-round interview: Her grit and gratitude are palpable and immediately apparent. I hope you share this inspiring interview with your students/children to see the power of these two qualities in one person.
So, there you have it. My answer to a fulfilling life! What’s yours?
The LifeSmart Team