By Scott Halford
Have you ever wondered why some people succeed in life more than others; especially when you look at people who are in about the same kind of jobs with the same kind of intelligence? We know that cognitive intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ) are predictors of overall success, especially when combined at high levels. But, researchers have found that there is one other ingredient that really sets successful people apart: grit.
Angela Duckworth and her colleagues had an inkling that there was something else that predicted goal achievement and success. So they isolated and tested grit in several studies. They define grit as perseverance and passion for long term goals and they go on to explain: “Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.”*
It seems like such a simple concept that sticking to long-term goals increases the likelihood that you’ll achieve them. It feels like an “of course”. But, Duckworth and her colleagues found that not everyone does that so easily. They discovered that the older we get the better we are at grit and that the more educated we are the better chance we have at having grit. Interestingly, when they looked at college students with the highest grade point average (GPA), it wasn’t SAT scores that predicted the higher GPA, but grit. The students who might have scored average on SATs but had more “stick-to-it” attitude had better grades.
If you want to see how much grit you have, you can go to www.authentichappiness.com and sign up. It’s a University of Pennsylvania website and it hosts several psychological instruments that are in beta, so you can take them for free. Take the Grit Scale. Answer honestly so you can see your baseline score. If you score lower on grit, you’re not alone. You can improve grit by working on impulse control, working through boredom by finding someone who might help you to keep on going (mentor, personal trainer, coach). You can reward yourself at milestones that build into your bigger goal. You can practice by setting goals that are not too far in the future to start. Achieve the shorter term goals and then start increasing the time to and achieve longer-term goals that extend to a year or longer. Good luck and keep on going!
*Angela L. Duckworth, Christopher Peterson, Michael D. Matthews, and Dennis R. Kelly. “Grit: perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” Journal of personality and social psychology 92, no. 6 (2007): 1087.