Like any parent, I want my children to grow up to be successful. I also believe that success should not be measured merely in terms of a job or career, but in terms of satisfaction with all areas of one’s life.
To reach this level of success, I encourage my kids to fail early and often, build self-control and self-confidence, try new sports and extracurricular activities, be competitive with themselves and compassionate with others, and to follow their own interests.
I’ve learned about the importance of grit, and specifically the importance of grit over talent. Like many, I had grown up thinking some people were simply more talented than I was: whether this was in math, music, sports or just about anything where I witnessed a true professional demonstrate his or her abilities. I summed it up thinking, well, I didn’t win the gene pool lottery so I can’t do that.
“Mythologizing natural talent lets us all off the hook,” writes Angela Duckworth, the celebrated researcher and professor, in her book Grit. “It lets us relax into the status quo. That’s what undoubtedly occurred in my early days of teaching when I mistakenly equated talent and achievement, and by doing so, removed effort—both my students’ and my own—from further consideration.”
But Duckworth presents a compelling case with the research to back it up that grit and the power of passion and perseverance ultimately leads to achievement.
“Talent—how fast we improve in skill—absolutely matters,” she writes. “But effort factors into the calculations twice, not once. Effort builds skill. At the very same time, effort makes skill productive.”
Duckworth found that the psychological assets in “mature paragons of grit” have the following elements in common:
- Interest – Passion begins with intrinsically enjoying what it is you do.
- Practice – One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday. And deliberate practice is especially important.
- Purpose – What ripens passion is the conviction that your work matters. For most people, interest without purpose is nearly impossible to sustain for a lifetime.
- Hope – Hope is rising-to-the-occasion kind of perseverance.
Each of these are helpful in overcoming a more fixed mind-set with regard to reaching success. Each can help you reach the success you’re looking for—whether that’s in your own professional growth or that of your children’s future. You can determine your own level of grit using Duckworth’s Grit Scale.
As I practice my own understanding of grit, I tend to hesitate more often before rescuing my children from their immediate struggles. I urge them to use deliberate practice in their efforts to improve skills. I encourage them to explore a new interest without regard to whether or not they are immediately good at it. And I try to set an example by continually trying new things myself because I know the more I demonstrate my own humility and acceptance of failure as a part of the path to success, the more likely they are to accept and adopt this as normal.
When I think about grit, I tend to see it as a combination of growth, rigor, integrity and tenacity. For me, these are the essential elements that help foster achievement.
Growth – Reaching any level of success requires a growth mind-set. Only with the notion of continually learning can anyone expect to really know and demonstrate any skill. Growth should be constant and an essential element of grit.
Rigor – Grit requires the rigor of discipline and precision in order to reach success. This is best exemplified in the deliberate practice necessary to achieve anything. Without rigorous effort, no skill can be fully reached.
Integrity – Most often thought of as doing the right thing when no one is watching, integrity in this sense has to do with following your own internal compass and following through on what is essential to who you are and not who others may want you to be. This is about purpose.
Tenacity – The idea of courage of mind as well as fortitude and resilience in tenacity are vitally important in grit. No one can fully reach their success without tenacious effort in the face of so much resistance coming both internally and externally.
As you reflect on your own efforts toward success, how does your grit scale impact this and what are doing to overcome it?