We all want to achieve success in what we do. There are many books that advise us how to do it. However, we are still looking for the perfect recipe that allows us to get there as quickly as possible and perhaps without much effort. We are obsessed with obtaining the results, and we focus little on the process. But to taste the sweet fruits of seeing our most important goals realized requires much more than intention and desire, effort is necessary.
In this article, I want to share what I have read about the research of Angela Duckworth, a prominent psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, on the psychology of success.
This researcher has interviewed leaders from the world of business, sales, art, sports, journalism, medicine, the military, education and law to try to discover what makes them stand out in their profession, and although there are certainly characteristics particular in each area, qualities and specific advantages, has found that passion and perseverance is what distinguishes the great winners. The combination of these two elements is called grit.
What is the Grit?
Passion, more than intensity and something fleeting, refers to continue with our goals over time. Have commitment and constant dedication to them, not change interests so easily. It is to have a clear and definite philosophy of life. Duckworth explains that it is having a primary goal that is an end in itself. This goal acts as a compass that guides our life and gives meaning to the other goals of the middle and lower levels that we set ourselves to achieve the higher goal.
When we are missing, this may be due in part to the fact that the goals that we have set at lower levels are not as consistent with our main interest. We may want to achieve something, but at the moment of truth pursue goals that have no relationship and that consequently distance us from our goal.
On the other hand, perseverance is the tendency to not easily surrender with goals when there are setbacks along the way. It implies determination and willpower.
Talent is not as relevant as we think
In our recent culture, we tend to give too much importance to “innate” talent over effort, assuming many times that, if we have little talent, this will not allow us to go very far.
Duckworth believes that overestimating talent can be harmful because “we are transmitting that other factors such as Grit are not as important as they really are”. If we think about it, we can see that talent is not enough to explain achievements.
A person may have talent and still miss it, not show it, not use it. On the other hand, talent does not necessarily guarantee that the person has the passion and perseverance to finish what they started, that they can keep going when things get difficult. There are people who may think that with the talent they have, it is enough and that it makes more sense not to try to polish it and expand its limits. In addition, when we put too much emphasis on talent, we run the risk of excluding very early other people whose potential is also valuable.
Duckworth points out that although talent is important, the effort counts twice as much. However, when we see an athlete or any other person who performs with great excellence and amazes us, we usually attribute it to that person has a natural and special gift. We do not usually see the sum of everyday acts; the training process, the dedication, the hours of effort, practice, experience and learning that have led him to have a high performance.
Development of the Grit
The grit can develop. Research has revealed four psychological qualities that people with grit have in common; interest, practice, purpose and hope.
It refers to working on what attracts and motivates us. Research has shown that people who have an occupation that matches their personal interests are generally happier with their lives, perform more, are more helpful with their peers and keep their jobs longer.
However, passion is not something that is discovered suddenly, without more, as we usually believe. It takes time and requires in principle to explore diverse interests with a relaxed and fun attitude, without exerting too much pressure, because it is a stage of discovery. Once we discover new interests, we need to stimulate them, cultivate them and actively develop them over time.
Duckworth explains that “to feel an interest in something requires time and energy, but also a certain discipline and sacrifice.” To develop our interests, it is necessary to work hard, study, practice and strive. You can have a passion, but if you do not strive, you will not stand out or develop it. But it is also true that, if you are not passionate or interested in what you do, it will cost you much more to persevere in it.
In his research, Duckworth has also found that grit models, in addition to discovering something they like and developing that interest, learn to delve into it. They have a lasting interest, in which they continue to find novelty in what they do, there is always something more to learn and know in their activity. Do not jump from one project or activity to another completely different, without opting for anything in particular.
Studies show that people with more grit are those who tend to persevere in something more than the rest. They spend more time on a task and that time is of higher quality.
They aspire to improve and progress from a positive mental state, which is not based on dissatisfaction. Anders Ericsson, a cognitive psychologist, has studied for a long time how experts in various professional fields acquire their exceptional abilities, and has found that thousands and thousands of hours of deliberate practice are required over many years.
This type of practice consists of considering an objective of improvement or self-improvement that is clear and defined and that involves a challenge. Then you need to use absolute attention and great effort to try to achieve that goal. The practice should allow the person to obtain feedback and immediate information about their progress in order to concentrate on their weaknesses and overcome their level of skill.
Finally it requires repetition and refinement of the skill, without forgetting the rest periods. When the goal is achieved, the pursuit of another goal begins again. It is important to turn deliberate practice into a habit, establishing the same time and place to practice daily.
It is the intention that what we do contributes to the well-being of other people. Duckworth mentions that most people start feeling interested in something out of pure pleasure, learn to practice with discipline and then come to consider the meaning and purpose of what they do. In his studies he has found that, although pleasure has a certain importance in the lives of people with more grit, they are much more motivated than the rest to look for a meaningful life centered on others. Both the interest in something and the desire to connect with others are crucial for a passion to last.
In the same way, those people who see their work as a vocation, instead of as an occupation or professional career, have more grit and are more satisfied with their work and their life in general. Some recommendations to cultivate the sense of purpose involve thinking about how our work can positively contribute to others and how we can modify it, albeit in small ways, to match our essential values and be more meaningful.
It is the confidence in one’s own ability and control to make things go better in the future, based on one’s own effort. This is the kind of hope for people with grit. It is not a hope, in which the responsibility for things to improve falls on external forces such as the universe, or luck.
It is not about waiting for things to improve on their own. What leads to despair is the suffering we think we can not control. It is when we come to the conclusion that we can not do anything to change our situation. In his studies, Duckworth has found that grit models interpret adversities with optimism. They attribute temporary causes to adversities, instead of permanent causes, as in the case of pessimistic people.
He has also discovered in both studies with young people and adults that the grit goes hand in hand with a growth mindset. According to Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University, people with this type of mentality believe that intelligence, talents, abilities, qualities and personality can be developed and nurtured through effort and can grow from discipline and experience. Therefore, they are people who tend to accept new challenges, enjoy the learning process, persist in the face of obstacles and achieve a high level of performance and achievement.
People with grit are those who know what they want to achieve in their life, because they have set themselves the task of discovering, developing and deepening their interests. They have learned to persevere in the face of obstacles and dedicate more time of quality and deliberate practice to their interests, see meaning and purpose in their work (no matter what it is), and trust that based on their own efforts things will improve.