What makes people successful? Is it high IQ? Is it a natural gift? Is it having a growth mindset? Is it 10,000 hours of deliberate practice?
What if you don’t have all of these? Well, there’s a recent theory that’s making the rounds. Research from Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at UPenn, suggests that there is something else in play…something she defines as ‘grit.’ This research defines grit as “the perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” Before you move on though, you can take a 12-item grit self-assessment from UPenn (I scored just 3.5 out of 5) to see where you stand. Just answer the questions as honestly as you can. Here’s more from Duckworth here in her TED talk:
Great, now what does this number mean? Well, it might mean that you’ll do better in school. According to the study, if you had more grit, you were more likely to have higher GPAs at an Ivy League school, higher educational attainment, you’re better at spelling bees, and you’re less likely to quit a grueling summer training program at the West Point Military Academy. Great! You can read more about this research here in her paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
So you didn’t get a great ‘grit’ score? Smarter folks than me are figuring out ways to improve your grit and resilience. It seems to have a lot in common with productivity and self-control…like avoiding distractions and staying focused on your goals. You can exercise more outside, build in good habits, take up meditation…there’s a lot of advice out there that you can check out if you’re interested!
But is grit correlated to other measures of success? It’s great if you consider success to mean academic achievement – a convenient measure when you’re in academia and you have access to a sizable supply of students. Grit didn’t predict other performance measures among West Point cadets…just the likelihood that they would make it through their grueling summer training. The jury is still out on whether or not GPA is a useful predictor for career success.
My advice to you is to take this assessment of ‘grit’ as another data point with which to better understand yourself and where you might need to improve. Grit might not mean anything by itself, but it could mean something in combination with all the other attributes that make you unique.