In our third round of blog posts, we look at the role of emotions in Strategic Grit, provide tips and tricks for overcoming the challenges that come with them, and more. We want to help you build Strategic Grit: a resilience that is not random but planned, effective, and durable.

Holly: Since we’re talking about emotions, I’ll admit that I had some powerful ones during the writing of this post. It took a strong dose of Strategic Grit to get me through the creative process. But my experience is not unique, and it provides the perfect segue for talking about emotions and how they can make us feel incompetent and completely stuck.

When I first sat down to write this post, I followed my and Jennifer’s recommendations: I set a goal to write the first draft of this post by a specific date, and then I chunked the larger goal into smaller ones to ensure that I met my deadline.

But then life happened. Marathon training runs and preparations for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary kicked in at the same time as my kids’ school and sports activities ramped up. I missed my first deadline and so I extended it. I missed the second deadline, as well. I felt like a time-frazzled loser.

It’s important to share how I felt at this point. First of all, it’s a reminder that Strategic Grit doesn’t mean emotional stoicism; you are entitled to feel let down and disappointed, sad or lost in the process of achieving goals.

At this point, I was disappointed with myself and upset about my inability to deliver on a promise I had made to a close colleague. I was also frustrated because I have used the Strategic Grit method to start projects countless times before, but this time, it wasn’t yielding results.

I was also embarrassed that I, the Strategic Grit expert, was feeling rotten about my writing and missed deadlines. I felt like an imposter.

So, how did I overcome this challenge? There’s a success story brewing! 😊

I reread our original Strategic Grit series and started experimenting with Thoughtful Experimentation and Discipline, and eventually, I started to gain Momentum.

I tried writing for different lengths of time. Instead of writing at my computer, I took notes on my phone, sticky notes, and even a football roster sheet. I posted a sign with my deadline on a wall in my office. Finally, I asked a friend to hold me accountable.

My previous process of blocking out writing time in one-hour increments wasn’t working due to my busy personal life, so I switched to 15- and 30-minute increments. Also, I gave myself permission to write a “shitty first draft,” something my favorite author does, instead of seeking perfection.

Folks, it worked! When I recognized the need to take small steps forward to start DOING, it helped me keep going until I had a draft.


Jennifer: I can relate to all of it, Holly! Thanks for the reminder that even coaches need to practice what they teach.

Your personal story of taming emotions to stay on track with Strategic Grit can also be applied to companies and organizations. After all, people (and their feelings) are at the heart of every business and institution.

Strategic plans often fail because the people who put them together fail to implement them. A big reason they don’t implement them, and why so many strategic plans wind up in a drawer, is because people have feelings and those feelings can lead to inertia. Let’s be honest, we’ve all seen this happen, and it’s a big concern for any group that’s contemplating reorganization or a strategy update.

If you want your strategic plan to have the impact it was intended to have, here are three things to consider:

  1. Immunity to change: Harvard researchers Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey study how our assumptions and conflicting commitments cause unconscious resistance to change. The threat of impending change can trigger defense mechanisms, even if we believe we’re genuinely committed to change. Their book, Immunity to Change, is a fascinating dive into this phenomenon and how to overcome it.
  2. Psychology of change: There are many models that describe how people approach and respond to change. One I find useful was created by Amy Morin, LCSW, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. Morin offers five steps to successful change:  1) pre-contemplation; 2) contemplation; 3) preparation; 4) action; and 5) maintenance. Take another look at those steps. Action doesn’t occur until Steps 4 and 5, after a whole lot of thinking. But I believe Step 5 is the most important of all. This is where the discipline of taking a small action, learning from the experience, and iterating intentionally can truly transform a group or organization.
  3. The power of small steps: As Holly described, a blank page or Excel spreadsheet can lead to powerful feelings of overwhelm and self-doubt. In these moments, all we want to do is escape the task at hand. However, I hope that you’ve also experienced, as Holly did, the power of small steps. Every analytical report begins with the first letter of a word, then the first articulation of an idea. Every significant organizational accomplishment is built from countless small actions.

I have worked with organizations that set ambitious goals that made their employees feel paralyzed. It’s exciting to think about a radically different future, but making it happen can seem intimidating. Ignoring the emotional impact of daunting tasks could put your organization at risk of losing its most valuable resource: its people.

Strategic Grit doesn’t cancel out valid human feelings. Instead, Strategic Grit acknowledges and embraces their existence, then develops action plans that help people work through and past them.

Putting it together:

Take it from us: there is great power in the SFD (the “shitty first draft”). Embrace it!

And remember: Every team is made up of people who, like yourself, experience the exquisite range of human emotion. Making plans that consider this fact will help you and your organization navigate challenges and opportunities much more productively.

About Strategic Grit: Strategic Grit was born of the lessons (sometimes painful, sometimes joyful) we learned thanks to pandemic times. We learned some of these lessons on our own through research, study, and personal experience; others we learned through our work with clients. But the theme that stands out is this: Those best equipped to ride out tumultuous times are agile, persistent, and forward-thinking. These are people and organizations with Strategic Grit, a resilience that is not random but planned, effective, and durable.

About Holly: Holly works with individuals and teams to help them forge and refine purposeful leadership and authentic collaboration as they navigate planned routes and unexpected detours. She is a certified Human Resources Professional and Mental Toughness Trainer. Learn more at

About Jennifer: Jennifer helps businesses, nonprofits, community coalitions, and governmental entities with strategic evolution: tackling complex problems, determining strategic direction, and developing a discipline of action to create a new future. She is a Certified Strategic Doing Workshop Leader. Learn more at