The December issue of Psychology Today has an interesting article about achievement called The Winning Edge. In the article they suggest that grit, or perserverance and persistance, makes a significant difference. Perhaps the greatest difference.
This makes sense to me. I have seen all kinds of people excel and most had grit. People with lots of money and many with little. People with lots of education and many with more street smarts. People with high IQs and many with less impressive intelligence scores.
Over the last several years, I have been very interested in the conditions that produce breakthroughs (see 2 Weeks to a Breakthrough and my More Space essay for more about my work with breakthroughs). Action and resolve figure prominantly in most breakthroughs.
The article goes on to say that grit can be developed, and I agree with this too. But here is an interesting statement important for all you parents out there:
"Grit, most likely, can be taught, or at least encourages. But one impediment to growing grit may be - surprisingly - the seemingly innocent act of parents praising a child's intelligence. In one fascinating series of studies, Stanford Univesity psychologist Carol Dweck and her collegues showed that children who were praised for their intelligence cared more about their grades than about learning during subsequent tasks. And after experiencing failure, there children were less persistent than their peers who had been prasied for their effort. 'When you praise kids' intelligence and then they fail, they think they're not smart anymore, and they lose interest in their work.' Dweck explains. 'In contrast, kids praised for effort show no impairment and often are energized in the face of difficulty."
Wow! Another example of the power of intrinsic motivation and the pitfalls of extrinsic motivation.
The article also offers a quick assessment you can take to determine your level of grittiness and suggests ways to nurture grit including:
- Help people find their passion
- Provide criticism lessons
- Be a model of gritiness
- Offer challenges
- Teach people to handle and learn from failure
- Don't worry about balance
These suggestions also enliven intrinsic motivation. I have seen many people with great grades and ideal degrees fall flat when it comes time to achieve in life and career. I am betting you know a few people like this too. Many lack grit. They are disciplined, but in a mechanical - means to an end - manner, whichis less powerful and compelling.
Grit. Good stuff. The article is available online, and definitely worth read.