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Predicting Success: Grit, why you want it, if you don’t have it

In trying to decide what topic I would cover in this blog, I couldn’t seem to think of a compelling topic, so naturally I went looking for inspiration on my favorite sites for new ideas – Psychology Today, Mind Tools, and TED Talks (If you don’t already watch TED Talks, you should check them out. There are a wide variety of topics, and there is definitely something for everyone.) While scouring the psychology section of TED Talks, I found an especially interesting talk led by Angela Lee Duckworth on traits that predict success: grit and self-control.

ArcherPoint’s Hannah Horning offers insights on psychology and business

According to Duckworth, “Grit is the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals. Self-control is the voluntary regulation of behavioral, emotional, and attentional impulses in the presence of momentarily gratifying temptations or diversions.” In other words, gritty individuals stick with and do not lose interest in long-term goals for years, even after failure and without reinforcement, whereas self-controlled individuals resist temptations and impulses.

Duckworth, who has been on the forefront of this research, received a $650,000 MacArthur fellowship, also known as the “Genius Grant,” to continue her ground-breaking research. To say the least, she has been recognized with an extremely prestigious award, but what makes her theory on predicting success ground breaking?

What she proposed is that grit is a greater predictor of success than I.Q., social intelligence, attractiveness, or physical health. Most of the research that has been done on predicting success or achievement (referring only to accomplishments of highly valued goals) is in regards to I.Q. scores, which are reliable and precise measurements, but I.Q. does not always equal success. What Duckworth and researchers suggest is that grit is one quality shared by prominent leaders regardless of their field or industry. In fact, Duckworth has found that grit and I.Q. are not positivity correlated, meaning there is no significant relationship. So, if I.Q. is not highly correlated with grit, what is?

She and researchers found that conscientiousness – one of The Big Five personality traits – is strongly correlated with grit. According to The Big Five model, individuals high in conscientiousness are typically reliable, self-regulated, industrious, organized, and careful. Grit and conscientiousness overlap in regards to achievement, and conscientiousness is a plausible contributor to achievement; however, there are many differentiators between the two. Even though there is a strong correlation between grit and conscientiousness, grit is still a greater predictor of success.

If you would like to find your grit score, visit The Duckworth Lab’s official website. You can also take The Big Five Personality test, to see if you are high in conscientiousness.

By understanding how grit plays a major role in success, education systems, businesses, the armed forces, and so on, could reframe the way we think about intelligence, and make better decisions based on who would be a “successful” candidate. If the education systems and parents understand grit, they could hypothetically make children “grittier”, in turn pushing them to lead successful lives. As of now there is not enough research to truly draw any conclusions, but the possibilities are endless. Duckworth and researchers continue to further their research and search for answers at The Duckworth Lab at the University of Pennsylvania.

This is only a short commentary on Angela Lee Duckworth’s research, and only highlights the main concepts. If you would like to read the entire scholarly article, click here

Read my weekly business-psychology articles, by subscribing to my blogs. Each week I will share an article based on interesting research, theories, and principles that I come across. If you are interested in a specific psychology-business based topic and would like to learn more, leave comments and I will try to cover the topic in one of my blogs.

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