We all know at least one person that never stops moving. Whatever their goal is, they are constantly chugging along in their marathon to achieve it- never stopping or slowing down despite setbacks. At Long Island Island Psychology, we set out to understand what drives this person to dedicate themselves 110% to achieving success and how to help others develop this kind of work-ethic.
Professor Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania theorized that success is not necessarily based on physical health, socioeconomic status, intelligence, or even IQ score. In fact, the greatest measure of success is not especially correlated to how talented or skilled you are, rather how willing you are to stick with something day in and day out despite setbacks. It is your ability to persevere and carve out passions so strong and forceful that you stop at nothing to achieve your goals. This is Grit. In simple terms, the Grittier you are the more likely you will be to achieve success. Grit is broadly defined as having long-term persistence and passion, working hard and dedicating oneself to their achievements, and staying on course regardless of adversities or challenges. In her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Duckworth writes about some of her top findings that studied traits correlated with success. She found that Grit, across the board, was the most prominent trait associated with success. Her main findings were:
- At West Point Military Academy, cadets with greater levels of Grit were more likely to succeed through the difficult training and complete their program
- Spelling bee contestants with more Grit were more likely to place high
- People with higher levels of Grit were more likely to get post-secondary degrees and stick with a career path
The good news is that the potential for success is not something stagnant and available to only a select few. According to Duckworth’s theory of Grit, success is a measure of how committed you are to your goals and how resilient you are to adversity. Michael Jordan and Mozart were both incredibly gifted in their fields by nature, but they didn’t simply wake up one day amazing. They practiced and then practiced some more starting from a young age. They pushed through setback and failure, and never gave up despite difficult circumstances. If they had decided to “take it easy” and not give it their all, it is possible that their natural born talent would have gone completely to waste. Talent was just one fraction of the recipe that created their success. Hard work, perseverance, passion, and mental strength were the core pieces that determined their achievements and helped them become #1 in their respective fields.
The Impact of Grit
Grit is not just for people who are trying to achieve the seemingly impossible. While Olympic athletes and world renowned composers may be incredibly Gritty, Grit is something that can be learned and utilized regardless of what you are trying to accomplish. At Long Island Psychology we can help you develop Grit in a way that is most beneficial to you. Some examples of the impact of Grit include:
- Students- Students that perform well in school seem to have higher levels of Grit than those that don’t perform well in school. If one student has a high IQ score but low Grit score, and another student has a low IQ score but high Grit score, the student with more Grit will be more likely to perform well. Student success is not a measure of how quickly a student can learn, rather how willing they are to try hard.
- Business Owners- The success of a business depends on many factors. It is difficult to pinpoint one simple answer as to why certain businesses fail and why others succeed. However, studies have shown that business owners aiming for success are more likely to do well if they stick through hardships and keep working even after failure. Sometimes it takes three or four tries to get a business off the ground. Those that keep trying, adjusting, and persevering are more likely to see significant achievement.
- Relationships- It might be strange to think about, but a large part of relationships involve Grit. Oftentimes, young people have fantasized versions of what marriage and long-term relationships look like when the truth is that long-term relationships are not easy. The loving, caring and kind picture that couples cultivate takes a lot of hard work and compromise. Angela Duckworth found that people with elevated levels of Grit were 17% more likely to stay married. When times were rough, they were more likely to attempt solutions and listen rather than give up on the relationship.
Being successful students, professionals, and partners are not products of just raw talent or predisposition. Even if somebody is naturally intelligent, strong, capable, or solution-oriented, it takes perseverance to achieve goals and see results. Grit is something that can be practiced and learned, which means that it is possible for almost anyone to obtain. The real test is if you are willing to put in the time and work, not if you are naturally strong or gifted.
Duckworth and her colleagues developed a twelve-part Grit scale in 2007 (Grit O) that was later condescended into an eight-part Grit scale (Grit S) a few years later. It is used to measure levels of Grit either as a self-report questionnaire or moderated test. This scale contains two measures that test for consistency and effort, and each question grades on a spectrum of “very much like me to not like me at all.” Some examples of the eight parts include:
- Setbacks don’t discourage me
- I am a hard worker
- I set goals and then choose to pursue new ones
- I have difficulty maintaining focus on projects that take a few months to complete
After you or a moderator grades you on a spectrum for each question, your “Grit Grade” is calculated on a scale from 1-5, 5 being the most Gritty.
Improving Your “Grit Grade”
Finding out how Gritty you are is just the first step. In order to maintain and build upon your current level of Grittiness, there are many things that you can do. This is not an easy task, especially if you are starting with a lack of Grit, but it can be accomplished and maintained. Our Resilience Program utilizes specific steps to help you improve your “Grit grade” including:
- Consciously Exploring- Sometimes we pressure ourselves to know what we want to do in life or to find the thing that makes us excited to get up every day. The truth is that discovering who we are and what we are passionate about takes patience, and it may not be easy to develop. Remember, that it is more than okay to take the time to explore different things that pique your interest. Just keep saying to yourself that the exploration is to help you discover your path, don’t get discouraged by setbacks and put yourself out there to get the full experience.
- Deepening Interests- We often have unrealistic expectations about what it will feel like to find our passions. We imagine waking up one morning and jumping out of bed feeling fully fulfilled by our work. In reality, passions are not something we stumble upon at random and feel instantly connected to. Rather we learn and deepen our connection to our interests, which through hard work and dedication develop into passions. The trick is to turn an interest or skill into something greater by exploring its intricacies and deepening our bond to it.
- Practicing Imperfection- Practicing doesn’t mean that you will reach perfection. In many ways perfection doesn’t exist; there is always room to grow and explore. While we can view imperfection as discouraging, it can also be looked at as the possibility for many endless opportunities. There will always be room to make mistakes, learn from them, and accomplish moving forward. Additionally, failure promotes the modification of old behavior and practice of new behavior. This allows us to ingrain successful behavior into our minds and acts as a stepping stone toward repetition, which makes it easier to achieve and reach your goals.
- Identifying Purpose- One of the greatest indicators of happiness is feeling that you contribute to something greater than yourself. This doesn’t need to relate to religion or spirituality, rather having a sense of meaning and accomplishment that extends beyond you as an individual. For example, we are more likely to meet a deadline when someone else is relying on us. In essence, linking our passion to somebody else or to a cause greater than ourselves may motivate us to continue persevering. If your passion is painting, try creating a painting for someone as a birthday gift. If you enjoy reading, try joining a book club with scheduled meetings. This will motivate you to complete your work within a certain timeframe and allow you to accomplish more. While some passions have more obvious “deadlines” than others, connecting our passions to others gives us a better chance of sticking with them.
Developing Grit takes a lot of time and patience. While it certainly isn’t easy, it is something worth investing in. At Long Island Psychology we want to provide you with the tools to excel in your work and personal life, persevere through hardship and grow from the process. To learn more about Grit and our related programs please visit our Resilience Training Program page or call 516-732-0273. For more information about our Garden City and Rockville Centre, NY locations, please visit our contact us page.