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Grit and resilience in your career and life

Dec. 16, 2020
If you're thinking this year isn't what you signed up for, you're not alone. The path to success in your career and life is not a straight line—but you can negotiate the many twists and turns along the way.

During these continued times of challenge and change, individuals respond, react, and cope in different ways. As students, you are likely thinking: “I don’t think this is what I signed up for!” Quite possibly, many of us are saying that about life these days.


I saw a post this week on a friend’s timeline that spoke to all of the changes we have experienced in 2020, and it was through the lens of all that we have lost. I read it, and my reaction was: “Ugh, that does not make me feel better.” In fact, the negativity just added to the heaviness of our current environment.

But then, a mutual friend posted and took a completely different perspective. Her focus was not on all of the things we can no longer do, but rather on the things we have gained during this time. Here are a few that were mentioned: No days are wasted; time with family has been gained—perhaps not in person, but many of us have connected with friends and family virtually whom we have not seen for some time. If you have students at home, this is valuable quality time. There is more time—for conversations with a partner or spouse, to learn new technology, or to try things we may never have had the opportunity for pre-COVID.

Think of the virtual concerts that have been made available for the first time. I heard that the Nutcracker will not be performed in New York City live for the first time in many years, but it will be streamed virtually—how many more people will see this in 2020? Wow!

 Perspective can dramatically change the optic of any situation. Practice mindfulness with regard to how you approach situations, and you may recognize an improved positive perspective with this shift.

Learning and growing in adversity

Grit and resilience are also worth thinking about not just during this time, but also in a broader sense of life and planning for the future. Cultivating grit and resilience can help us cope with stress, face adversity, respond to trauma, and bounce back from life’s unexpected challenges.¹

Grit is described as courage and resolve of character, while resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. According to Dr. Erica Warren, some of the most important characteristics of grit and resilience include:1

  • Managing emotions—being open to one’s feelings and able to modulate them in oneself
  • Awareness of strengths—cognizant of one’s talents or strong abilities
  • Persistent determination—continually pursuing a course of action despite difficulties or opposition
  • Passion-driven focus—actively persevering with a powerful and clear intention
  • Resourcefulness—acting effectively or imaginatively, especially in difficult situations
  • Personal sense of control—subjective awareness that one is initiating, executing, and managing one’s own actions
  • Ability to reach out to others—pursuing connections and assistance from those around us
  • Problem-solving skills—finding solutions to difficult or complex issues
  • Bouncing back—quickly recovering after a setback or when facing significant stress, adversity, or trauma

Developing and nurturing your sense of grit and resilience can position you for success as you continue in your educational, professional, and life’s journey. There will always be unexpected and unplanned events, and the journey to success is not a straight line; it has unexpected twists and turns, with each experience—good or bad—teaching us something. Enjoy the experiences along the way with a conscious perspective of learning and growing as a result of each challenge.


1. Warren E. Nurturing grit and resilience: classroom strategies for success. Dec. 9, 2015. https://learningspecialistmaterials.blogspot.com/2015/12/nurturing-grit-and-resilience-classroom.html

Tammy Filipiak, MS, RDH, is the vice president of clinical development and compliance officer for Midwest Dental, a dental support organization based in Wisconsin. She is a past president of the Wisconsin Dental Hygienists’ Association and the American Dental Hygienists’ Association and has served ADHA in a variety of roles including as a member of the Standards for Clinical Dental Hygiene Practice Taskforce. Tammy has received numerous awards, including a presidential citation from the ADHA in recognition of her leadership and vision. She also was awarded the 2003 Butler/RDH Health Gums Healthy Life Award of Distinction, and in 2012 was recognized as one of “Six Dental Hygienists You Should Know” by Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. Tammy may be contacted at [email protected].