A Way to Test Your Grit

As educators, we talk a lot about grit and perseverance in the face of adversity. We want our students to keep going even when the learning is challenging.

As parents, we want our own children to also have grit and perseverance as they tackle life. We’ve always been honest with our children that life can be tough at times, their bosses aren’t going to let them keep their jobs just for showing up, and they’ll often encounter challenges they must tackle to survive.

The question is sometimes, “How to build grit and perseverance?” There are of course the usual things like learning to walk, standing up for themselves and others when necessary, and once committed to a team they need to follow it through until the end as others depend on them to show up (band or sports).

Tonight it hit me of a simple way for the young and old alike to experience and practice grit and perseverance. It is called a puzzle.

We’ve always had puzzles out at times throughout the year, more so in winter. Since we’ve been hunkering down, I think we have finished about 10 puzzles of different complexities; sometimes our kids help, but often it is just my husband and me. A 300 piece one took us about an hour. A 1500 piece took us about two weeks.

The current 1,000 piece is going on two weeks and we’re about half-way finished. It’s scene is an Escher painting. It has frustrated me more than the last one. The pieces are small, the colors are so similar throughout, and the puzzle coating is such that I can only see the pieces clearly for a short time when the light is just right in the afternoon.

Every day we’ve worked on it, I’ve wondered why I keep going with completing it. It’s not like I have to finish it. I could let the hubby finish it. No one would know if I just put it back in the box and went on to a new one. I could even just pretend to work on it while my husband finds all the pieces, or at least until there are far fewer pieces from which to choose.

But I don’t. Just about every day I sit down, usually for a few minutes at the end of my lunch with my husband, and we keep plugging along, one small piece at a time.

There is only one reason to continue as there really isn’t a payoff at the end other than the knowledge of completing a challenging task. That internal motivation can be quite powerful which goes with a quick dose of feel good hormones. There is also an element of pride in not giving up when the going got tough.

Where I am going in my rambling is this, if you want to teach perseverance and grit, get a puzzle, lay it out, and then leave it there until its finished, whether in the classroom or a table at home. Then rave when the puzzle is completed.

Do your best to include your children from a young age (try not to be a puzzle hog, as I have to remind myself not to be often—sometimes I fail in this area; being a hog can turn others off to helping out). Putting puzzles together can also be a bonding and conversation moment. Some of my good memories as a child and now, are conversations with my mom. Educators, this works in the classroom as well, and as I write this, I think it would be beneficial if a principal had one laid out in their office for students, staff and families to help complete for all the same reasons.

Grit and perseverance are great life skills. A puzzle might be one of the easiest ways to help build those skills over time, increasing ones stamina at the same time.

Go get a puzzle and get started. Send pictures when you’ve finished so I can give you a high-five. Plus, we are always looking for a great picture and a new challenge.

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