“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”—Tim Notke
What sets those who succeed apart from others? This was the question researcher Angela Lee Duckworth set out to answer. She spent years studying people in challenging situations, from teachers and students in classrooms to salespeople in private companies, and even cadets at West Point Military Academy. In each situation, she asked, “Who is successful here, and why?” One characteristic stood out above all others: grit.
She defines grit as “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals.” She explains that it’s about seeing the future you want and being dedicated to creating it, “day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years.”
In her research, grit outweighed IQ, family income, demographics, and every other measurable factor she and her team could think of. She explains: “Our data show very clearly that there are many talented individuals who simply do not follow through on their commitments. In fact, in our data, grit is usually unrelated, or even inversely related, to measures of talent.” Consistently working on your goals for a long period of time is your best bet for success.
The good news is that grit is something you can choose to develop and work on; you choose whether or not to work on your novel after your desk job; you choose whether or not to work out when you’re tired; you choose whether to build good habits or indulge bad ones.
The first step to developing grit is grasping that the single most important factor for your success is entirely within your control. That alone is powerful motivation to commit more seriously to your goals and work harder on them.
Duckworth also notes that Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset”—the mindset wherein a person recognizes that his abilities aren’t fixed, but can be improved upon—has positive effects on one’s grit. In other words, recognizing that you can improve your abilities and that your effort is the best predictor of your success, then acting on that knowledge, makes you exponentially more likely to be successful, whatever your endeavor.
To hear the full story of Duckworth’s inspiration, methodology, and results, check out her TED talk below.