The Facts About Grit

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Our society makes us believe that talent or intelligence is something that we are innately born with. In school it can be easy to compare yourself to others, especially when some people seem naturally better at certain subjects. Ultimately, it can be easy to think that an individual is just good at something because they are, because they are gifted, however that is not the case. Angela Duckworth is a psychologist who has spent a large portion of her career evaluating what determines someone’s ability to do well. The slogan “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard enough” may seem like a sports team motto or a phrase that might be see in a classroom, regardless, the meaning behind that phrase is exactly what Duckworth has set her career on discovering. Talent can only take someone so far, if that person does not work hard at developing that talent. The belief is that talent may get someone initial success, but hard work is what gets them continuous success, long term. Duckworth has set out to prove that grit is the ability to continue with your goals even when being setback. Psychologically, Grit is arguably more important than natural talent because the level of an individual’s grit is more likely a determinate of success.

Grit goes in depth on what it takes to make someone successful. Angela Duckworth had a mission to find out why people who may seem naturally talented, regularly fail to reach their full potential when seemingly less talented individuals achieve amazing successes. After years of studying grit, Duckworth has said that “our potential is one thing, what we do with it is quite another” (Grit Duckworth p.14), which really exemplifies why her research is important to understand. Growing grit might be difficult at first, however once you have found what interests you, the next step is to practice, and last, it is important to have a purpose behind what you are working towards.

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Interest is important for anyone building grit because “passion begins with intrinsically enjoying what you do” (Grit, Duckworth p.91). People who are especially gritty tend to love what they do and enjoy it, even if there are parts that they don’t always enjoy. Practice is just the process and “discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday” (Grit, Duckworth p.91). Gritty people tend to focus on what they don’t do well and practice until it is mastered. Once the passion and interest has built the foundation, practice is what will develop and lead to improvements and success. Purpose is vital in this process because Duckworth believes that “interest without purpose is nearly impossible to sustain for a lifetime” (Grit, Duckworth p.91). Once the joy of what you are doing has been developed and built on, it is important to find that connection to the well-being of others. Some people know what their purpose is from early on but for others it is developed over time. The science behind developing grit suggests that your passion is built with discovery, and with the development of said passions, followed by finding the purpose or deepening behind it.

Angela Duckworth is not the first psychologist interested in the connection between success and grit; what makes someone successful, and how do you build it? In 1978 Warren Willingham began the Personal Qualities Project with the determination to find out what personal qualities matter when predicting intelligence and success (Grit, Duckworth p.227). For five years, the study focused on a couple thousand high school seniors, beginning during their senior year. For the study, materials from each participant; like college applications, writing samples, interviews, questionnaires, and school records were collected and evaluated to provide a numerical score. Even information like family background, motivation, and socioeconomic status were included and considered for this study. The measures for this study were collected by determining if the student distinguished themselves someway academically, did they show leadership qualities, and what accomplishments were made. Over the five years of the study, Willingham found that students that were most successful were able to follow through with whatever they were doing (Grit, Duckworth p.228). The follow through displayed continues and purposeful commitment to a particular activity instead of trying many different things.

The activity did not mattered, whether it was academic or athletic, what was important was that students who tried an activity, continued with the activity and made some sort of progress within that activity, ended up being more successful overall. These types of students from the study where the yearbook editors, class president, or team captain. Even though talent could originally draw someone to an activity, sticking with the activity and making progress is what Duckworth would call grit.

Someone with grit is more likely to accept the challenge presented to them, with the goal of overcoming the challenge. Duckworth found in her research that when an individual took more time to practice and develop their skills, the higher the chance of success will be. Study after study, Duckworth recognized the pattern and stated that “deliberate practice predicted advancing to further rounds in final competition far better than any other kind of preparation” (Grit, Duckworth p.126); meaning that by deliberately practicing, you have a better chance at succeeding in whatever it is that you are practicing. Deliberate practice can be defined as practicing with a purpose and systematic focus, compared to mindless practice (Grit, Duckworth p.126). After collecting questionnaires from the students preparing for the spelling bee, Duckworth concluded that students who advanced further in the competition completed more deliberate practice for more time compared to other students (Grit, Duckworth p.126). From this research, Duckworth concluded that deliberate practice was found to be one of the most successful ways to prepare for contestants preparing for the National Spelling Bee. Duckworth noted that many of the students in the competition where all very accomplished and had great grades, but the type of practice and time dedicated was better at determining how far someone would advance compared to initial intelligence.

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The Facts About Grit. (2022, Feb 11). Retrieved from

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