There’s been a lot of debate over the years as to what the most important factor in achieving success is. Is it hard work? Talent? Luck? A combination of the three? Or shear Grit? Speaking at the Conde Naste Institute, Angela Duckworth, professor of Psychology and popular science author, contends that “Grit” is equally as important as talent and luck when it comes to achieving success in life.
But what is Grit?
Grit, by definition, is having sustained passion and perseverance towards achieving long term goals. It’s about having a higher purpose that motivates you to take action, even when success feels impossible. This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles when faced with adversity and serves as a driving force in the realisation of achievement.
During her time as a Maths teacher, Angela noticed that IQ didn’t appear to be the only factor that determined how successful students were at exams. Some of her smartest students, didn’t seem to be doing very well. The reason for this, she believed, was their inability to stay focused on the task at hand. Despite their high IQ’s, they lacked purpose and this caused them to give up quicker when presented with challenges.
Acknowledging this, Angela came up with 3 main ways that can help to establish purpose and increase our capacity for Grit:
1) Develop your interests – What are you passionate about? What would you do if money was no object? If you could wake up tomorrow and be anything, what would you be?
2) Cultivate purpose – In choosing what to do, take into account whether it will benefit other people. Interest is selfish. Purpose is meaningful. We shouldn’t ask ourselves “what do I want to be when I grow up?” Instead, we should ask “what problem do I want to solve?” It has to be purposeful, because the higher your purpose, the higher your Grit.
3) Know the science of “Deliberate Practice” – Once you have established your ultimate goal, the best way to stay focused on achieving that goal, according to psychologist Anders Ericsson, is by engaging in “deliberate practice”. This is made up of 4 main elements (see diagram below), the most important of which being to set a “stretch goal”- a goal so minimal that you can’t not achieve it. Then slowly but surely over time, increase the intensity of that goal until you are achieving much more than you ever imagined possible.
Another important factor in aiding the development of Grit is to encourage a “Growth Mindset”, a term coined by Stanford professor Carol Dweck. Growth Mindset is the belief that your ability is not fixed. It can change with effort. When you educate children about how the brain works, and how it grows and responds to challenge, they’re much more likely to persevere when they fail, because they don’t believe that failure is a permanent condition. They believe that they are in control of their destiny, based on how hard they work.
If you would like to know more about Grit, head over to Angela’s website where you can take the Grit test and see how you rate on the Grit scale.