Patrick Murphy Exemplifies Grit

Patrick Murphy
“We can control our process of getting back up when we get knocked down.”

For Patrick Murphy, grit is not a static skill, but a dynamic energy that is both a product and process of consistently evaluating one’s values, strengths and failures. An advanced doctoral candidate who models grit both on and off campus, Patrick exemplifies the ways a growth mindset can lead to lifelong well-being and success.

Originally from Rensselaer, Indiana, Patrick began his academic career at a community college before earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Purdue’s satellite campus in Fort Wayne. Now a Ph.D. candidate in counseling psychology at Purdue’s main campus, Patrick specializes in positive psychology and social class identity. He teaches a variety of psychology courses, provides psychotherapy and psychological assessments for local community members, and serves as Purdue's student representative for the American Psychological Association’s Section on Positive Psychology.

For both campus and APA members, Patrick facilitates workshops on using positive psychology concepts (such as strengths, grit and the growth mindset) to enhance work performance and fulfillment. Patrick’s peers have identified him as making incredible contributions in his field, citing his ability to tap into his own experiences as one way he effectively explains grit to others.

“To me, grit is persistence and perseverance," Patrick explains. "Failure is a part of being human, but so is getting back up, persisting, and continuing to expand and grow. I make mistakes and fail at things on a daily basis—that makes me human. But my process of persisting and maintaining grit through mistakes and the associated feelings has transformed my personal and professional life."

Patrick credits his initial sense of grit to the working-class community in which he grew up.

“Having exceptional work ethic and grit is one of the only ways a person can stand out, earn a job, and keep food on the table," Patricks says of his hometown. "We take great pride in providing for our families. For us, grit is how we survive.”

Holding great respect for his hometown, Patrick also knew that he had an professional calling that required him to step beyond the city limits. He joined the ranks of other first-generation college students who must rely on some grit to make up for the lack of pre-existing academic guidance or networks. Looking back, Patrick notes that he was acutely aware of how much he didn’t know about designing academic success in a college setting but attributes his success to his persistent commitment to overcoming obstacles.

“It’s still difficult for me to make sense of my journey—it all seems unreal," Patricks says. "There were so many times where I had setbacks and could have failed at achieving what I had set out to do.”

In helping others understand grit, the growth mindset and positive psychology, Patrick notes that it is important for him to “lead by example.” Stepping out of his comfort zone to pursue his long-term academic goals is only one such example and he actively strives to model grit in his classroom.

"If you ask my students here at Purdue, I think they would tell you that I balance being very supportive with also having high expectations of them", Patrick says. “I try to create learning environments where students feel brave enough to make mistakes. When they persevere through difficult learning experiences, I reinforce that successful boundary-pushing.”

His teaching philosophy also aligns with two aspects of grit that Patrick keeps circling back to - the dual importance of developing supportive networks and acknowledging that we have limits.

Although it’s important to remember that grit is fundamental to success, Patrick advises students that it is equally important to “develop relationships with teachers, mentors, and friends in which you feel safe and brave enough to take risks, make mistakes and engage in the process of growing."

While grit is often equated with toughness, Patrick identifies how real grittiness is deployed when we address our limits, our fears and the emotions that come with them.

“Lately, I have been developing the courage to face my personal insecurities, to embrace my mistakes and to recognize the limits of my skills and knowledge," Patrick explains. "Maintaining grit through mistakes (and the associated feelings) has transformed my personal and professional life. But grit is something that we have to cultivate and develop. That process takes time and lots of energy.”

Patrick plans to pursue a faculty research and teaching position after completing his doctorate in order to continue promoting the science and practice of positive psychology. He is also interested in ways that organizational consulting, coaching and motivational speaking may allow him to help individuals and organizations reach their long-term goals.

Beyond academic and professional development, Patrick enjoys spending his energy hiking, backpacking and kayaking in the wildest of wildernesses. He is currently looking forward to nicer weather, getting lost in the woods and planning his and his partner’s next adventure.

On top of everything, Patrick cannot speak highly enough of the family, friends, and mentors who have contributed to his success and the grittiness that helped him get there.

“The single greatest impact on my development has been the people who have held me up in difficult situations," Patrick says. "My success is their success. I represent my family, my hometown, Fort Wayne—and now Purdue— in everything I do.”