Jennifer DiFrancesco

Jennifer DiFrancesco

Almost daily, we witness ‘stick-to-itiveness’ and perseverance expressed as “true grit.” Personally, I am attracted to the word “grit” which suggests to me courage, resolve, firmness of character, and an indomitable spirit. These are all lofty personality traits to pursue. The elusive mystery resides in how we achieve the qualities of this simple, yet weighty, word.

By analyzing the character of true grit and the qualities associated with it, the more we realize that it is essential for personal wellness. The presence of grit can be contagious, helping to propel us to success in reaching our healthy goals and aspirations.

On May 9th I witnessed the effect of true grit firsthand as I led fifteen Toscana Country Club members up the San Jacinto Mountain on what is known as the “Skyline Trail” or “Cactus to Clouds.” Both hiking options are noteworthy bucket-list hikes that rank as two of the most difficult hikes in the country. Skyline challenges hikers starting from the desert floor and ascending to the top of the tram requiring an 8,500-foot elevation gain in 9 miles. Cactus to Clouds commands even more intensity with a 10,834-foot elevation gain in 17.5 miles.

Regardless of which trail is chosen, those hiking must commence before sunrise to bypass heat and make a commitment to hike for 7 to 12 hours. In addition, there are a myriad of other preparations to master, such as hiking efficiently, identifying essential gear, staying hydrated, and recovering after the hike. The most important preparation that cannot be planned is the “true grit” which must be harnessed step-by-step. The moment we commit to the challenge, grit naturally unveils itself. You can see it in the faces of those hiking.

Our group (ages 30 to 70) joined together on a day devoted to team support, courage and tenacity. Fathers and sons, husbands and wives, best friends and solo hikers formed a hiking train. At 4:00am with headlights on, our train started up the hill like a thread of light weaving up the mountain. As the day progressed, amidst a rising sun, bonds were formed between some finding a kindred connection. Others, who are personally motivated, pushed up the hill independently. Upon reaching the top, there were mixed triumphant reactions. Some displayed tears, others surprise, and many a warm embrace with another to affirm the completion of a monumental achievement.

Regardless of each personal journey, the day was an overall success. The next day ended with not only physical recovery, but also mental renewal. Some of our hikers experienced somewhat of a “let down” as the energy and excitement of the previous day dissipated. The aftermath was quiet and the question was posed, “What’s next?”

Eleanor Roosevelt advised, “Do something that scares you every day.” Courage is like a muscle and it has to be exercised daily. If not, it will atrophy. Courage helps fuel “grit.” The two are symbiotic. Finding a long-term, physical goal and attaining it provides meaning and value to long-term efforts. One’s practice towards a goal must have purpose. This achievement cultivates drive, passion, stamina…In a nutshell—“true grit.”

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