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The Tough Get Going

Have you ever heard the saying when the going gets tough, the tough get going?  Recently I overheard this advice being shared by a 4th-grade student to his classmate. It got me thinking… how has this youngster come to understand that there is a value in sticking with something, to seeing a project through to completion?

Researchers such as Carol Dweck and Angela Duckworth suggest that a child’s mindset can have a significant effect on the academic opportunities and challenges s/he might embrace.  Resiliency or “grit” is needed as children, adolescents and adults face the challenges inherent in our evolving world and marketplace.  This attitude of “the tough get going” should and can be encouraged, nurtured and developed.

In her description of a growth mindset, Dweck suggests that each of us begins with a certain set of skills, talents, and competencies, but that these are not fixed points.  Our efforts, our focus, our stretching helps us to develop, grow and change what we are capable of doing and how we view ourselves. The mindset that we are able to move beyond our present-day capacity, consistently reinforced by parents and the learning community, eventually helps children to develop “a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

In his “last lecture” at Carnegie Mellon University, the late Randy Pausch, Ph.D. stated, “experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” Life is full of experience-producing moments! No one likes to experience disappointment, falling short or rejection, but these help shape and direct our living and learning journey.

If you want to build anything, it takes some heavy lifting; this includes character. It is not enough to say this month’s focus is “perseverance.” That “tough get going” attitude must be shared and lived out by students, teachers, and parents. And if we are successful, we will have helped a new generation of problem solvers, innovators, inventors, and visionaries.

Susan Tyree Dempf, Ph.D.

Head of School

Academy of the Sacred Heart, Saint Charles

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