I recently watched a TED talk by Angela Duckworth. A teacher turned researcher who wanted to find out which traits made some children more successful than others. She quickly found out IQ or genes were very poor predictors.
What Angela found was that "grit" - the perseverance and passion to achieve long–term goals - makes the difference. It's about putting in the hours when we'd rather be doing something else. Sustained input over long periods of time. Putting in the extra bit of effort when it would be easier to stop.
Whilst I'm not sure how you can measure "grit", I do have a sense of what she means. It's not so much about being the most courageous, most talented or most intelligent but more about consistency and perseverance over time.
This made me think about something I wish I remembered to talk about more in clinic. Sometimes, some people with even very complex conditions get better really quickly. We make some big changes to diet and possibly some supplements and bingo. All is well.
But this is not the majority. For most people the road to health is never just straight ahead. There's progress at the start but there are usually setbacks, changes to the body, that one meal we knew we shouldn't have eaten...
I know how disheartening this can feel, as when you have been ill for a while progress gives you hope. But these setbacks can teach us where the tolerances are for us individually - the differences sleep, stress, travel, gluten and sugar can have.
When we begin to get well we can become more relaxed about the changes we have made and put pressure on ourselves when the body is just not strong enough. It teaches us the link between our health and the choices we make.
This is where the grit comes in. Sometimes we can't work out what went wrong, but we notice if we use some grit, go back to what we know and give it a little time - most things pass.
We learn we never go back to the very beginning so we don't have to be afraid.
Progress may not always be as fast as we would like, but with enough grit we can get there.