The Power of Grit

Scientist Angela Duckworth, PhD, says passion and perseverance are key predictors of long-term career success. The MacArthur "genius" Fellow shares four ways to grow your grit

Psychologist Angela Duckworth describes herself as a scientist who studies human excellence. A household name among educators and high achievers, Duckworth is widely known for her groundbreaking research, viral TED Talks, and best-selling book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. “I study people who are truly world-class at what they do,” she says. “Whether that’s in athletics …mathematics, or radiology, or civil service, entrepreneurship, they really have as a common denominator passion and perseverance for long-term goals.”

In February, the University of Pennsylvania researcher and MacArthur “genius” Fellow gave a virtual Todd Lecture Series talk True Grit: The Surprising and Inspiring Science of Success to the Norwich community. A key takeaway from her research? Natural-born talent doesn’t directly translate to long-term success; however, grit does. “One of the reasons why gritty people succeed is that they stay in the game, and they don’t go home early,” Duckworth says. “I can’t imagine a better time in history, honestly, to be talking about the importance of perseverance and for staying passionate during difficult, difficult times.”

Whether you’re aiming for world class or first class, it’s never too late to unlock the science of success. Duckworth shares four tips to boost your own grit:

1.    Feed (and keep) your passion. “Most high-performers that I study are listening to podcasts, they’re listening to audio books, they’re reading books, they’re watching documentaries, they’re doing things to constantly be a kid again, and to rekindle that interest and curiosity.”

2.    Practice like an expert. Break down the thing you want to do well into smaller parts then practice those smaller skills with absolute concentration. Get feedback on how well you did. Musicians call this approach deliberate practice.

3.    Find your purpose. Full-blown grit goes beyond self-interest to a life and work of lasting meaning, often one that makes the world a better place. “This is the motivation, I think, of somebody who really runs downstairs in the morning to get to what they’re doing.”

4.    Foster a growth mindset. Whether you’re 4 or 84, believe that you can improve. “I find in my data, when you follow people over time, that the more you have this growth mindset—the [belief in the] ability, fundamentally, that you can change and grow—the grittier you are. [And] the grittier you are … strengthens your growth mindset, and on and on. [It’s] a virtuous cycle.”

Got that? Now get out there and strive for something amazing.

Sean Markey

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