In a therapy session several years ago, I was talking about my childhood. I described the instability of my early years as I was passed from one temporary home to another. I recalled the lack of warmth and comfort I felt, which I didn’t even realize I’d been missing until later. By the time I was 6, a kidney disease diagnosis left my living in a hospital for months at a time. I had few visitors and ached with loneliness, enduring several surgeries and the removal of one kidney. Once I was finally out of the woods with my kidney disease, I was diagnosed with polio.
My therapist sat silently for a moment after I recalled my story. Then he said something that’s stuck with me for years: “I knew you had grit.”
Hearing him put my resilience into words made me feel appreciated, and seen. It felt like a true reflection of my journey.
Years later, I discovered Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. In an interview about the topic of her book, Duckworth explains what countless studies have shown: that the greatest indicator of success is not necessarily education, privilege, or luck.
“It was this combination of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special,” writes Duckworth. “In a word, they had grit.”
For the past 30 years, I’ve learned a great deal about the relationship between money and self. Just as you cannot tell someone with alcoholism to simply stop drinking, you cannot tell someone stuck in a destructive money cycle to simply change their behaviors. Their actions are often the result of deep-rooted beliefs and wounds of deprivation, neither of which are easy to amend.
When working with clients one-on-one, I saw evidence of the phenomenon Duckworth mentioned: some clients with very little education did incredibly well, while others with PhDs faltered. The ones who made the greatest progress were the ones with grit.
Through tenuous circumstances with no clear solution, they persevered and stuck with the process of Financial Recovery. They have what I think of as money grit.
During a training class the other night, I asked my coaches for their impressions of the term money grit. One coach, Sarah McMurray, put a sentiment I’d been feeling into words beautifully. She remarked on the amount of magical thinking in the world of money. People are encouraged to ask the universe for help and simply change their mindset to solve their financial issues. While having the right mindset is certainly part of the solution, reaching Financial Recovery means sitting down and doing the work. It means digging into the uncomfortable places where emotion, personal history, and behaviors collide.
Working through that discomfort and reaching a healthy relationship with money takes real money grit.
I worked with one client several years ago (I’ll call her Lila) who really exemplified money grit. She was a high school teacher living with her partner, Sheila, in a house Lila owned. Lila was deeply in debt, but had kept this a secret from Sheila. By the time she came to see me, she was desperate for relief from her burden and feeling helpless.
For months, Lila came to see me every week. She did the work of Financial Recovery even when it was painful and she felt overcome with shame. I could tell she was making progress, but more importantly, she remained determined to find a solution—she wouldn’t have continued to pay me for sessions if she felt it was all a waste.
Then, after deciding it was time to tell her partner about her debt, Lila stumbled upon a solution neither one of us could have imagined. It was Lila’s partner, Sheila, who held the answer.
Lila revealed to Sheila her financial struggles and the work she’d been doing to resolve them. Sheila responded with compassion and support, and a suggestion: she wanted to buy into their house. Sheila had always felt she was living in Lila’s house rather than one they shared. By buying into the home, Sheila gained a feeling of ownership and equal partnership, and Lila could use the money to pay off her debt.
“I never would have thought of this solution,” Lila said. “Now Sheila and I are both working on Financial Recovery together.”
How Have You Shown Money Grit?
If you’re reading this, you probably have some money grit of your own: something has compelled you to seek help healing your relationship with money. I invite you to examine your life and see how you’ve demonstrated money grit. What outcomes have you continued to pursue, no matter how difficult the circumstances? What obstacles have you overcome in order to get to where you are now? What kept you going?
I do believe it is possible to develop money grit, but I think it’s difficult to do so alone. If you want support in your journey towards Financial Recovery, check out my book, Financial Recovery: Developing a Healthy Relationship With Money, and browse our list of Certified Financial Recovery Counselors.