Grit for 2020 and Beyond

It’s Wednesday, September 23rd, and we’ve started our day off at this year’s virtual version of PENworks 2020. Very fittingly, the theme of this year’s conference is Mission Possible: Positive Change in Challenging Times. We can tell you, as OrangeBall is part of PENwork’s annual planning committee, that we landed on this year’s theme toward the end of 2019. We had no idea then how relevant those words would be today…

Cindra Kamphoff, in today’s opening keynote, shared some powerful thoughts on grit to start the day. Based on our brains’ wiring, our amygdala is where threats, danger, and negativity thrive. It’s a walnut-sized part of mind that is hardwired to preserve us. As Cindra shared, “Your brain exists to keep you safe, not live at peak performance.”

This wiring has a name – we refer to it as negativity bias. Most simply, this means that negative events linger longer in our minds than positive ones do. Negativity is sticky, and positivity is more slippery to hold onto. Our mistakes and challenges naturally carry more weight than our wins and successes.

Soak that in for a second. In the middle of a pandemic, our racial justice challenges, election 2020, work from home and virtual classrooms, job losses, one coast on fire, and another being flooded… we naturally hold onto the negatives. Right now, we have a lot to juggle.

So what do we do with all of this?

Cindra shared three takeaways with us this morning that will help each of you:

First, practice the “12-Second Rule.” Savor each positive event in your life for at least 12 seconds – this will help make the positivity more sticky and easier to recall.

Second, stomp the ANTS… your Automatic Negative Thoughts. When your subconscious floods you with negativity, notice it and try to stomp it out quickly.

Third, prime yourself each morning. Start each day with a minute in gratitude, time recalling your purpose, stating your intentions for the day, and fueling your self-talk with some power phrases. “I am ____ .” “I know ____ .” “Every day, I ____ .”


Knowing that we are naturally tilted toward giving negativity our attention, we need to be extra aware and intentional to fight against that. We say “fight” because that’s what this can feel like somedays – it can be a struggle. We’re fighting for positivity, fighting against the negatives, and fighting to lead well through everything 2020 has brought our way. Strengthen yourself today. Choose one or two of those practices Cindra shared this morning and start to weave them into your life intentionally. We hope this is as impactful for you as it is for us!

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