I’m sure you’ve heard the mantra about goals and perseverance — The concept that the most successful people in the world go beyond talent, to strive to overcome challenges over prolonged effort. However, this TED video from Angela Lee Duckworth suggests these traits, which she simplifies to a four letter word, “Grit” — don’t explain the bigger question — How can you create grit in people?
Grit is the disposition to pursue very long-term goals with passion and perseverance, sustained over time. So the emphasis is on stamina.
Self-control is related — we often measure self-control and grit in the same sample and find a strong correlation — but the difference is time scale. Self-control is the ability to resist momentary distractions and temptations in order to reach a goal, but the goal doesn’t have to be something that you’re pursuing for years or decades. You might have a goal of staying on an exercise routine or doing your homework that night. And if you fail to do that and instead sit on the couch or watch TV, that’s a failure of self-control. But the goal doesn’t have to be something you’re working on for years and years.
The lack of research here is impressive, if somewhat frustrating for any of us who would like to do better, or see our businesses and employees (especially our sales and marketing representatives) reach higher levels of consistent accomplishment. This is especially since the “grit” trait is more important than intellectual fire-power, natural athletic ability, or social/emotional intelligence.
One very intelligent person wrote in response:
I’d say those things are context driven. My desire and ambition to create a think-tank is pretty darn high. My ambition to when an Olympic gold medal is a wee bit lower than high.
This contextual observation is revealing, because I think correlating with grit, you need incredible focus and very few people can multi-task these larger-than-life goals and dreams (though they may include many elements and diverse skills.)
Presumably, however, we can evaluate potential new employees for grit and perseverance, for example by seeing if they’ve participated for several years in competitive sports or set and achieved major and challenging goals. Grit may also be vital for marketing success: If you just dabble at this stuff, you won’t succeed. You need, in many cases, to blunder, make mistakes, pick yourself up, and try a different approach to reach your destination.