One important component of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is perseverance, the consistent, sustained and focused application of talent and effort over time, University of Pennsylvania’s Angela Duckworth.
She refers to this perseverance and passion for long-term goals as “grit” in her research with West Point cadets and Scripps National Spelling Bee contestants, in collaboration with University of Michigan’ Christopher Peterson and Michael Matthews and Dennis Kelly of United States Military Academy, West Point.
Grit was not related to IQ but was highly correlated with “Conscientiousness,” a personality trait described in the Five Factor Model of Personality.
It was also a better predictor of “success” as measured by retention at West Point, and advancement in the National Spelling Bee.
In addition, “grittier” participants:
- Achieved higher levels of education
- Had fewer job switches and career changes
- Earned higher school grades than their peers, despite having lower standardized test scores measuring intelligence and achievement
- Devoted more hours to deliberate practice (defined as individual word study and memorization for spelling bee contestants).
The most effective deliberate practice was rated as the least pleasurable, and “grittier” individuals did more of this effort in Duckworth’s expanded study with Teri Kirby, Eli Tsukayama, Heather Berstein, then of Penn with K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University.
Practice activities rated as more pleasurable and less effortful, like reading for pleasure, being quizzed by their parents, contributed less to spelling performance.
Parents and educators found responded enthusiastically to Paul Tough’s popularized summary of “grit” research in his book advising parents and teachers how to help young people develop grit, curiosity, conscientiousness, and optimism.
He “gritty” attributes highly correlated with successful academic and career performance.
Duckworth expanded the investigation of grit to include “explanatory style”, seen in individuals’ propensity to explain events from optimistic or pessimistic perspectives.
Explanatory style is evaluated according to whether the individual considers event causes as:
- Personal (Internal vs. External cause or influence)
- Permanent (Stable vs. Unstable)
- Pervasive (Global vs. Local/Specific)
Optimistic explanatory style is characterized by external, unstable, local / specific explanations, whereas pessimistic styles include internal, stable, global attributions.
Duckwork and team found that novice teachers with more optimistic explanatory styles rated themselves higher in both grit and life satisfaction, and these high ratings were associated with better work effectiveness, as evaluated at the end of the school year.
Her students, Katherine Von Culin and Eli Tsukayama “unpacked” grit and found different difference in motivation and beliefs for grit’s two components: perseverance vs passion.
Among more than 300 volunteers, they found that perseverance and passion had different meaning, pleasure, and engagement orientations to happiness and implicit beliefs about willpower.
The research team is evaluating the relationship between “grit” and “growth mindset,” introduced by Stanford’s Carol Dweck to signify viewing failures and setbacks as opportunities to learn and improve, rather than a permanent lack of ability.
Dweck, with Lisa Blackwell, then of Columbia and University of Western Ontario’s Kali Trzesniewski demonstrated the impact of growth mindset and positive explanatory style on school motivation and achievement.
More grit may not always lead to greater accomplishment.
Duckworth and team speculate that grittier individuals may be:
- More vulnerable to the “sunk-cost fallacy”
- Less open to information that contradicts their present beliefs
- Handicapped by judgment and decision-making biases
- Likely to new opportunities because they are tenaciously focused on the original goal.
Assess your “grittiness” with the research team’s survey.
-*How accurately does your score reflect your view of your grittiness, perseverance?
-*How do you develop grit in yourself and others?
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