Many people view intelligence as the key to success. However, there are plenty of intelligent people who don’t achieve much, and lots of successful people that don’t score that well on IQ tests. Angela Duckworth, from the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that an even more important trait is grit. “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina.” “Grit is sticking with things over the very long term until you master them.”
Duckworth studied students at West Point, competitors in the national spelling bee, and those who complete college versus those who don’t. She’s tested them on the grit scale which asks if they work hard, if they stick to a goal till it’s achieved, and how they respond to setbacks. Those with the highest grit scores were the most successful in each realm.
She believes grit can be taught. Some ways to teach it:
- Create a culture where struggle and risk-taking and doing things outside your comfort envelope is valued more than getting the right answer.
- Tell stories about successful people that illustrate how being gritty and working hard despite setbacks helped them to succeed.
- Talk about mistakes and failures as normal parts of learning – not reasons to quit.
- Let them know that everyone, no matter how talented, runs up against things they can’t do. The ones who succeed are the ones who fail, pick themselves up, fail again and persevere till they succeed.
- Honor them for times when they set goals, face road blocks, and carry on to completion.
- Encourage a growth-based mindset.
Some argue that grit is a byproduct of other traits like confidence, courage and curiosity. Others argue that a child is more likely to be “gritty” and persistent and complete tasks in areas where they are passionate. Duckworth agrees: “I don’t think people can become truly gritty and great at things they don’t love So when we try to develop grit in kids, we also need to find and help them cultivate their passions. That’s as much a part of the equation here as the hard work and the persistence.”
- Take the test… where are you on the grit scale: www.sas.upenn.edu/~duckwort/images/12-item%20Grit%20Scale.05312011.pdf
- Watch a TED talk: www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_the_key_to_success_grit
- Can we teach grit? www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/03/17/290089998/does-teaching-kids-to-get-gritty-help-them-get-ahead
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