What is Grit and Why is it a Secret to Success?
“Our potential is one thing, but what we do with it is quite another.”
– Angela Duckworth
If you’re not succeeding with a significant personal or professional goal, do you quit or do you dig in and try another way? Do you find yourself whispering silently: “This is too much work.” “I am ready to give up.” “This is so boring.”
It turns out that effort and perseverance, rather than talent, are the secret ingredients to harvest achievement in life! So although there’s nothing wrong about the self-talk noted above, people who tend not to let those thoughts deter them from navigating important goals are more likely to get across the finish line.
What is Grit?
Grit is the passion and perseverance to achieve long-term goals. The term grit may remind you of tiny pieces of gravel between your teeth or a feisty tough guy or gal in the movies. However, grit is much more. According to research by pioneering psychologist, Angela Duckworth, grit is the secret mixture for building stick-to-itiveness.
“Grit is passion and perseverance for long term goal…Grit is living life as a marathon not a sprint.”
Why is Grit a Secret to Success?
Doing better in life, school, and work is about more than talent and learning quickly. The great news is we can grow our grittiness with specific strategies we can learn.
When grit was studied in more than 1200 West Point cadets, researchers found grittiness a remarkably reliable predictor of those who finished the rigorous program and those who did not. Remarkably, findings indicated that making it through West Point did NOT depend only on leadership experience, SAT scores, high school rank or athleticism. Grit was the critical factor!
And in youth competing in the National Spelling Bee, the factor that made the difference for kids succeeding further in completion was NOT so much their score on verbal proficiency, but THEIR GRIT, the hours of studying and competing in spelling competitions. The kids with more grit competed more successfully (Duckworth 2016).
Implications for Improving Grit
We can boost grit based on our efforts. If you’d like to be more gritty, consider ways to make positive changes. Just as you can learn Spanish or to drive a car, you learn to improve your grittiness. Dr. Duckworth recommends four ways to do this.
4 factors that gritty people share:
1. Interest – When we enjoy what we’re doing, we’re more engaged and feel more rewarded by our endeavors – personally, at school, professionally. Understanding what our interests and passions are, following them, and repeatedly triggering their development, helps deepen and sustain interest over the long term.
2. Practice – Deliberate practice is a key to continuous improvement, according to research by Anders Ericsson (2007). Importantly, not all practice is the right stuff. Effective practice INVOLVES a clearly defined GOAL. It is engaged with full concentration, effort, repetition, and focus to determine steps for further improvement
3. Purpose – Purpose in the context of grit involves not only contributing to one’s personal interests, but also making a difference to benefit others. This raises interest to a higher level, paying it forward for others in some meaningful way. For example, a server at a restaurant may view her/his work as bringing food to people, or as opportunity to make a positive difference in each customer’s day.
4. Hope – Gritty hope is not just an expectation. It involves persevering and working hard with the intention that effort stimulates results. Regardless of outcomes, gritty folks tend to engage in positive self-talk. They are more likely to recognize that any outcome provides opportunities to learn and improve as they move toward their goal.
To Learn More about Grit
- For more information on grit, view Dr. Angela Duckworth’s TED talk. Her book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” is a good read.
- To assess where you are on the ‘Grit Scale,’ take it for free on Dr. Duckworth’s website
Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.
– Winston Churchill
- Dweck C, (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Random House, NY.
- Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverence. Scribner, NY.
- Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit Scale.
- Duckworth, A. (April 2013). TED TALK – Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.
- Emmons, Robert A. (2007). Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. Houghton Mifflin, NY.
- Ericsson, K. A., Prietula, M. & Cokely, E. (July 2007). The Making of an Expert. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2007/07/the-making-of-an-expert
- Hanford, E. (2017). Angela Duckworth and the Research on ‘Grit.’ America RadioWorks: American Public Media.
Coaching with Ilene Can Help You Call Yourself to Action
Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD, PCC, CMC is an ICF Credentialed Professional Coach and Speaker. Ilene helps people live their best lives by bringing mind, body, and spirit into flow with their strengths, callings and potential. She inspires clients to find fresh perspectives and access their full potential as creative, resourceful, whole persons. Find Ilene online and access free resources at http://ileneberns-zare.com.
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