No Grit, No Pearl - Betty Streff
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No Grit, No Pearl

pearl factory

No Grit, No Pearl

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” ~Viktor Frankl


It probably comes as no surprise but often, I write to comfort myself or to explore my own feelings and this becomes my journal. When I’m wrestling with something especially challenging, writing is my way of thinking things through. I dump out all my thoughts and go searching like a pearl diver for words of wisdom. At times like that, I always hope my quest for insight will encourage you as well because we learn best when we share.


I’m reaching back to something I wrote about a year ago because I’m feeling a little overwhelmed again. Yep, I’m in a slump. No life or death things, I assure you. What I’m experiencing has been described as “death by a thousand paper cuts.” Are you with me? We all experience seasons when even the most positive outlook on life just doesn’t stretch quite far enough.


There’s an old saying that troubles come in threes. That would be dandy because it implies they will come and go, neat and tidy, and like after a storm, the sun will simply pop out again. But sometimes the circumstances stick around like guest that’s way overstayed his welcome. At times it’s simply a long hard haul that calls for mental toughness beyond the ordinary. That’s when we need to apply some new ways of thinking and seeing life with new eyes.


Where do we find those “pearls of wisdom?”


We all know people who seem to carry around their private bottle of sunshine despite the greatest hardships imaginable. What is their “it factor?” I dived for words like optimism, grit, and resilience. There’s a treasure of information out there for anyone who wants to become the very best version of the person she was created to be! This particular search turned out to be especially fun for me because as often happens, great insights pop up in the most unexpected places! It turns out that mental toughness, like pearls, can be cultured!


 I found pearls on a diamond!


Our family loves baseball and we can’t wait for the season to begin. For years we’ve been big fans of the Saint Louis Cardinals. In 2006, the Cardinals were in a long, tough slump. They hadn’t won a World Series since 1982 despite eight previous championships. What did they do? They hired a Director of Mental Training, a mental toughness coach, Dr. Jason Selk. What happened? The Cardinals won the Series that year and again in 2011 when Dr. Selk worked with them. Pretty convincing, huh? (I know, maybe they need to invite him back!)


Dr. Selk resolutely maintains optimism can be learned and that it’s a huge component of what it takes to endure through difficult times and succeed. He believes that “optimism is what we need to deal with unexpected change, crushing stress, and inevitable disappointments. It’s what helps us learn from mistakes rather than feel defeated by them.” And, he defines optimism as “hopefulness and confidence about the successful outcome of something, and a tendency to take a favorable view.” You might enjoy his book, 10-Minute Toughness.


What can a pearl teach us?


Pearls are a perfect metaphor. The beautiful gems are always the result of hurt. From an article in the Huffington Post, “It begins with an irritation — a piece of sand, shell or grit becomes lodged in the tender flesh of an oyster. In response, the oyster builds up layers of calcium carbonate around it which gradually becomes a pearl. A small pearl takes around 2-3 years to grow, a large one, closer to 10.” Wow, now there’s a gem. Big hurt+long time=big pearl.


Often, it’s only when we look back on painful experiences that we see the profound, meaningful growth difficult times have brought about. You may develop a greatly increased ability to cope with hardship, deepen your compassion and have more empathy for others. These are all pearls of great value. What a powerful message for life! A thing of beauty can be made from painful circumstances.


path to a pearl



Part of seeing life with new eyes is developing the capability of using a telescope rather than a microscope to look at our problems. “This too shall pass” has become my personal mantra. Hey, thanks for kicking this around with me. I feel better already. See you again Monday when we’ll tackle another lesson on a whole new way of looking at life!


“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways
or truer answers. 
M. Scott Peck 


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