Grit – why it matters more?

I had mentioned in the last article What keeps you going? that sustaining efforts despite prolonged period of adversity is another story – it is more about Resilience; and then there is Grit. While Resilience means bouncing back stronger after a setback, grit suggests passion and perseverance for long-term goals.

Angela Lee Duckworth is a psychologist (Ph.D.) at the University of Pennsylvania where she is an assistant professor in the psychology department.  She studies intangible concepts such as self-control and grit to determine how they might predict both academic and professional success.

This TED talk is about her research on Grit – a better indicator of success than factors such as IQ or family income. In her late 20s, Angela Duckworth left her demanding job as a management consultant at McKinsey to take up another demanding job – to teach maths to seventh graders. During her experiences as a teacher, and later as a part of her Ph.D. research, this is what she discovered –

In all those very different contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. It was grit. Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals.

~ Angela Duckworth

Grit is sheer determination and commitment to yourself to reach your goal, and achieve what you have decided to achieve. As Duckworth asserted after years of research this grit is a better predictor of success more than anything else.  This is how she puts it in her TED talk –

Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

~ Angela Duckworth

It is interesting to note that grit is not related to talent, in fact somewhat inversely related to measures of talent. Despite having studied it for years and having written a wonderful book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance about it, Duckworth says that we know very little about how actually grit develops. In fact, building grit and resilience is very intriguing study in the contemporary positive psychology. Duckworth mentions that the best idea about building grit is related to growth mindset, proposed by Carol Dweck at Stanford University. Growth mindset is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, it can change with individual’s efforts. The growth mindset idea and related book probably needs a post of its own, but in this article I want to focus on what Dr. Duckworth is saying – grit, definitely matters much more than intelligence or any factor when it comes to being successful in the long run.

Do watch her complete video here –

Combined with the last article – What keeps you going?, this is what I am trying to gravitate at – more than ability, background or any such apparently obvious factors, success is lot more about your own grit and resilience. By success, here I am referring to achieving what you want to achieve – it is not necessarily limited to materialistic acquisitions. While the grit is more about your own intrinsic motivation/drive to sustain your efforts for a prolonged period of time on a challenging/difficult task, resilience is more about optimism, continuing your efforts without giving up even when you’re faced with failures, despite adversity when others give up.

When you are walking on your own path, or when you are swimming against the conventional flow, grit and determination are two wonderfully intertwined characteristic traits that would help you to succeed more than anything else!


About the featured image:

The featured image used for this article is a screen-shot of the TED talk by Angela Duckworth.