Friday, April 13, 2012

True Grit - Angela Duckworth



Great work by Angela Duckworth demonstrating the link between perseverance and success. This trait correlates well to success across many different arenas. Who would have thunk it? Score one for the old-schoolers.

From ironshrink.com:
True Grit | Iron Shrink: "But Duckworth et al. noticed that none of the Big Five predict success very accurately. Nor does intelligence, by itself. At least one study cited by the authors suggests that any single Big Five personality trait accounts for less than 2% of variance in achievement. Intelligence only accounts for up to one third of the variance in some measures of success."




Something is conspicuously absent from the Big Five. Duckworth and company wondered, as did William James a century earlier, “why do some individuals accomplish more than others of equal intelligence?” Being the intrepid researchers that they are, they began to ask around:
“Our hypothesis that grit is essential to high achievement evolved during interviews with professionals in investment banking, painting, journalism, academia, medicine, and law. Asked what quality distinguishes star performers in their respective fields, these individuals cited grit or a close synonym as often as talent. In fact, many were awed by the achievements of peers who did not at first seem as gifted as others abut whose sustained commitment to their ambitions was exceptional. Likewise, many noted with surprise that prodigiously gifted peers did not end up in the upper echelons of their fields.”
In other words, some people simply work harder than others, but that’s not all. They do it in a particular way.
Long-term goals: Grit involves more than a solid work ethic and self-discipline. Hard work by itself is not enough to secure the type of success created by long-term, sustained effort. Back in my loading dock days, I worked very hard and gained no more reward in that environment than guys who did far less. One of the secrets of grit, according to the authors, is passion for long-term goals.
“Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory or cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.”
Commitment: Self-control is not enough, either. In fact, it’s a poor predictor of success in long-term goals.
“An individual high in self-control but moderate in grit may, for example, effectively control his or her temper, stick to his or her diet, and resist the urge to surf the Internet at work – yet switch careers annually.”
Determination: Even the need for achievement is not enough. In fact, the need for recognition can be a hindrance in long-term success. The gritty individual stays the course even when times are tough.
“Whereas individuals high in need for achievement pursue goals that are neither too easy nor too hard, individuals high in grit deliberately set for themselves extremely long-term objectives and do not swerve from them – even in the absence of positive feedback.”


I think I can, I know I can


The gritty individual sets long term goals, does not waver from them, and is able to ride out the rough patches – even when it means tolerating punishment or foregoing reward for long periods. The authors noticed that grit was a better predictor of first summer retention at West Point then was self-control or the Admission Committee’s prediction of the cadet’s abilities. (Self-control was a better predictor of later academic performance, though.)
Among spelling bee contestants, “gritty finalists outperformed their less gritty peers at least in part because they studied longer. Specifically, weekend hours of practice mediated the relationship between grit and final round.” The pertinacious progenture were clearly more distingue and perspicacious.
If the benefits of grit aren’t obvious by now, the authors spell it out: “among relatively intelligent individuals, those who are less bright than their peers compensate by working harder and with more determination.” It’s these gritty individuals who eventually win the day and achieve their goals. More often than not, great leaps forward are achieved through sustained effort rather than a solid but meandering work ethic. Just ask Winston Churchill.


Hope for guys like me

I love the underdog. Heck, I was the underdog. As a fetus, I lacked the foresight to be born rich or good looking and, like many kids, I had a few legitimate challenges to overcome. The beauty of this study is that it sheds light on one of the great equalizers on an unfair planet. This study offers hope for guys like me.
No matter how we enter the world, perseverance and determination can carry us farther than our talents alone. Sometimes, the rewards of grit can even show up quickly, as they did among undergraduates at an elite university who “scored higher in grit [and] earned higher GPAs than their peers, despite having lower SAT scores.” While the authors did not state it outright, I suspect that sustained effort helps a person develop a level of skill that they would not otherwise possess.
Another beautiful thing about grit: it’s free, and anybody can do it. In one of the six sub-studies comprising this paper, the authors noticed that grit tends to increase automatically with age. Apparently, experience teaches us that “quitting plans, shifting goals, and starting over repeatedly are not good strategies for success.” If we tend to learn that lesson intuitively, then there is no reason a person cannot choose to plot a long-term course and stick to it.


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FROM WIKIPEDIA:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grit_(personality_trait)

Grit is defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” [2] Building upon biographical collections of famous leaders in history, researchers and scientists have reached similar conclusions about high achieving individuals. Specifically, those individuals who were deemed more successful and influential than their contemporary counterparts typically possessed traits above and beyond that of normal ability.[3][4][5] While ability was still critically important, these individuals also possessed “zeal” and “persistence of motive and effort.”[2] Duckworth and colleagues (2007) believe this dual-component of Grit to be a crucial differentiator from similar constructs. Grit is conceptualized as a stable trait that does not require immediate positive feedback.[2] Individuals high in Grit are able to maintain their determination and motivation over long periods of time despite experiences with failure and adversity. Their passion and commitment towards the long-term objective is the overriding factor that provides the stamina required to “stay the course” amid challenges and set-backs. Essentially, the Grittier person is focused on winning the marathon, not the sprint.



From Positive Psychology News:
http://positivepsychologynews.com/news/emiliya-zhivotovskaya/200902211582

Grit


Grit is defined as perseverance and passion toward long-term goals (Duckworth et al. 2006). Gritty people tend to persevere, self-regulate and push themselves toward success. Drs. Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman (2006) found that the correlation between self-discipline and achievement was twice as large as the correlation between IQ and achievement.

Additional research suggests that people with grit:

report experiencing more happiness than those who are less gritty, even when controlling for age and education;
earn higher GPAs than their non-gritty classmates, even with lower SATs scores;
are more likely to outperform in spelling bee contests, regardless of verbal IQ.

The article links some of Duckworth's conclusions with those of Carol Dweck (another favorite).

Fixed Mindset People Do Not Love Effort

This is a difficult message for people to embrace who believe in fixed intelligence or proclivity for success. That belief is what Dr. Carol Dweck refers to as fixed mindset. Those in a fixed mindset tend to believe that effort is a bad thing, if they have what it takes to be smart, gifted or talented by nature than they should not need much effort. This type of belief decreases the motivation to work towards long term goals.

Interestingly, according to Dweck, simply learning about fixed mindset causes changes in people’s belief systems. They are more likely to accept a growth mindset- or the belief that effort, embracing challenges and seeking out learning opportunities is a stronger predictor of success. This encourages developing a grittier perspective, contributing to wanting to put more effort and time in.

A few years ago I completed the NYC half-marathon. This was a stretch goal. I had never ran more than 4 miles in my life. It took grit to get to the race and even more to complete it. Nevertheless, afterward I felt so proud and the positive emotions were self-reinforcing.

The mantra of the Army is, “Be all that you can be.” Grit, perseverance and self-regulation towards long term goals can make that happen.
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