Success is dependent on many different factors, but Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth has finally been able to empirically prove what many already ‘knew’, that grit is a better predictor of success than having a high IQ.
We’ve all seen talented, smart, and highly-trained people fail and quit. Success takes more than being simply talented—the desire to keep trying even when the odds are against you and our enthusiasm has waned.
Grit is an individual’s relentless passion and perseverance to achieve a long-term goal, in combination with a strong motivation and resilience to achieve it, no matter what strays into your path. Gritty people are able to overcome most obstacles and challenges, because they have the willpower to never give up on their dreams.
Grit separates the weak from the strong
Duckworth’s research focused on understanding which personality traits predict success in life. Overall, Duckworth’s team found that grit and self-control are by far much better predictors of success, than talent. Grit, in particular, stood out as the best predictor, as it “equips individuals to pursue especially challenging aims over years”, whilst self-control is more about controlling personal impulses.
Determination is key
Not surprisingly, Duckworth’s study showed that more determined students achieved higher grades than their less gritty peers. Moreover, grittier cadets were more likely to survive the first term at West Point, and same goes with children, grittier students reached the National Spelling Bee final.
Less influence due to IQ
The most surprising result of Duckworth’s studies is that grit is not dependent on IQ, gender, ethnicity nor incomer. That’s good news for everyone, as it’s more difficult to increase a person’s IQ than to foster grittiness and persistence by investing in an individual’s personal development. Grit, like other personal effectiveness skills can be developed, for example, individuals who quit when they start to feel frustrated and confused can be taught that these emotions are common during every learning process. Besides, individuals who avoid making mistakes at all costs can be taught that the most effective form of practice (deliberate practice – developed by Anders Ericsson) entails tackling challenges beyond one’s current skill level.
“Hold on, stay firm, even if it is difficult.”
5 tricks to become grittier
- Set goals. Some tasks are simply too big. Maybe you’re recording an album, redesigning your website, writing a script, training for a marathon, or taking your business to the next level. Dicing it up into manageable pieces is one way we can stay motivated and on track instead of getting frustrated and confused.
- Keep the finish line in sight. Don’t just think of small goals. Think of how good reaching that finish line will feel. What will persisting until the end do for you? If the reward is big enough, we can stay on track when disheartening challenges start to arise.
- Keep up the pace and renew your enthusiasm. If you can set goals, you can measure progress. Working against deadlines and milestones push us to accomplish more, more quickly. And the progress we make can keep serve as source of energy throughout the process.
- Run and walk. When working on a big project, it’s impossible to go all out all the time. But proper pacing improves endurance. Just like when preparing for a race alternating periods of intense effort with moderate effort will improve our fitness and thus allow us to go on for longer. This can be applied in our work life; we can go farther if we take breaks, go easy, relax, and rejuvenate.
- Kill the distractions. Exercising our determination is like exercising any other muscle. This relates to No. 4, but instead of taking breaks or going easy, the answer is removing the extraneous stuff that continuously distract your attention from what truly matters. How many meetings, hobbies, projects, pastimes, even relationships are making it impossible to keep up our determination when it matters most?
To learn more about grit and Angela’s work watch her talk on TED: