Dr Angela Lee Duckworth, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, believes that grit is a significant predictor of success and defines it as “passion & perseverance for very long-term goals”. Dr Duckworth left a high-paying job and took up a job as a Maths teacher in a public school in New York, only to realise that grit is what makes one student better than the other, irrespective of the IQ.
She refers to grit as stamina which helps you work towards your future and make your future a reality. Business is full of ups and downs and, though we know that, somehow, the fear of failure stops us from doing something more than we already are. This fear can have a long-term consequence – like not able to use our potential or capacities to the fullest extent. And if we never work towards doing that, we shall cease to grow and become complacent with the status quo and tend to underperform.
But Dr Duckworth, who recently was awarded the MacArthur Fellow, acknowledges the need for people to realise the role grit plays. She studies intangible concepts like self-control and grit to understand how they drive academic and professional success. Her work centres around the need to look at education from a motivational and psychological perspective rather than numeric measures like IQ. Success in business too can be driven by motivational perspectives, like grit, which will keep the passion alive and push you to work harder towards your goals.
She created grit questionnaires which were answered by a diverse sample; from students in public schools like Chicago Public School to students in West Point-a preparatory school for the US Military Academy and she found that grittier students were more likely to graduate or continue military training. These results reinforced her idea that grit matters more in personal success than a person’s ability to learn quickly and easily.
Dr Duckworth regards Dr Carol Dweck’s school of thought, Growth Mindset, as one of the tools that will help build grit in a person. Growth Mindset is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed and depends upon the effort the person puts. When you understand that the brain grows and responds to challenges, you will not regard failure as a permanent condition, but, as something which can be worked upon through perseverance.
Dr Duckworth is currently focusing on tools like growth mindset, which will help build grit. As she nicely puts it, “grit is living life like it’s a marathon and not a sprint.” Corporates too must go beyond standard success measures and metre themselves based on grit to pursue, not just success but, life -the long haul.