Let’s be honest, we all want to achieve success in what we do . There are lots of books that advise us how to do it. However, despite so much information out there… we keep looking for the perfect recipe that will allow us to get there as fast as possible and maybe without much effort. We are obsessed with getting 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, it requires effort.

In this article, I want to share what I have read about the research of Angela Duckworth, a leading professor of psychology 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 particular characteristics in each field, specific qualities and advantages, she has found that passion and perseverance is what distinguishes great achievers. He calls the combination of these two elements grit .

What’s the scream? These are its components

Passion, more than intensity and something temporary, refers to following our objectives over time. Having commitment and constant dedication to them, not changing interests so easily. It is to have a clear and defined philosophy of life. Duckworth explains that it is to have a main goal that is an end in itself. This goal acts as a compass that guides our life and gives meaning to the other middle and lower level goals we set to achieve the higher goal.

When we lack shouting, this may be partly because the goals we have set for ourselves at lower levels are not so consistent with our primary interest. We may wish to achieve something, but when it comes down to it, we pursue unrelated goals that consequently take us away from our goal.

On the other hand, perseverance is the tendency not to give up easily on objectives when setbacks occur along the way. It implies determination and willpower.

Talent is not as relevant as we think

In our culture, we tend to give too much importance to “innate” talent over effort, often assuming that, if we have little talent, this will not allow us to go very far. Duckworth, believes that overvaluing talent can be detrimental as “we are conveying that other factors such as shouting 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 can have talent and still waste it, not show it, not use it. On the other hand, talent does not necessarily guarantee that a person has the passion and perseverance to finish what he started, that he can keep going when the going gets tough. There are people who may think that the talent they have is enough and that it is more than worthwhile not to make an effort to polish it and expand its boundaries. Moreover, when we put too much emphasis on talent, we run the risk of excluding very early on other people whose potential is also valuable .

Duckworth points out that while talent is important, effort counts double. However, when we see a sportsman or woman or any other person performing with great excellence and we are amazed, we often attribute it to the fact that that person has a natural and special gift. We don’t usually see the sum of the daily acts; the training process, the dedication, the hours of effort, practice, experience and learning that have led him or her to a high performance.

Development of the Grit

The scream can be developed . Research has revealed four psychological qualities that people with grit have in common; interest, practice, purpose and hope.

1. Interest

It’s about 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 better, are more helpful to their colleagues, and keep their jobs longer.

However, passion is not something that is discovered suddenly, just like that , as we usually believe. It takes time and requires in principle to explore various 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 “taking an interest in something requires time and energy, but also a certain amount of 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 don’t make an effort, you won’t stand out and develop it. But it is also true that if you are not passionate about or interested in what you do, it will be much harder for you to persevere in it.

In his research, Duckworth has also found that the models of the grit, in addition to discovering something they like and developing that interest, learn to go deeper 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 within their activity. They do not jump from one project or activity to another completely different one, without opting for anything in particular.

You might be interested in: “De-motivation: what is it and what are its types?”

2. Practice

Studies show that the people with the loudest screams are the ones 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 skills, and has found that it takes thousands and thousands of hours of deliberate practice over many years .

This type of practice consists of setting a clear and defined objective for improvement or self-improvement that involves a challenge. Then, absolute attention and effort are required to try to achieve that goal. The practice should allow the person to get immediate feedback and information about their progress in order to focus on their weaknesses and overcome their degree of skill.

Finally, repetition and improvement of the skill is required, not to mention periods of rest. When the goal is achieved, the pursuit of another goal begins again. It is important to make a habit of deliberate practice by setting a time and place for daily practice.

3. Purpose

It is the intention that what we do contributes to the well-being of other people. Duckworth mentions that most people begin by taking an interest in something for pure pleasure, learn to practice it with discipline, and then come to question the meaning and purpose of what they do. In his studies he has found that, although pleasure has some importance in the lives of people with more scream, these are much more motivated than the rest to seek a meaningful life focused on others . Both the interest in something and the desire to connect with others are crucial for a passion to last.

Similarly, those people who see their work as a vocation, rather than an occupation or career, have more of a cry and are more satisfied with their work and life in general. Some recommendations for cultivating a sense of purpose involve thinking about how our work can contribute positively to others and how we can modify it, even in small ways, to match our core values and be more meaningful.

4. Hope

It is the confidence in one’s own ability and control to make things work better in the future, based on one’s own efforts. This is the kind of hope that people with screams have. It is not a hope in which the responsibility for making things better falls on external forces such as the universe, or luck.

It’s not about waiting for things to get better on their own. What leads to despair is the suffering that we think we can’t control. That’s when we come to the conclusion that we can’t do anything to change our situation . In his studies, Duckworth, has found that the models of shouting interpret adversities with optimism. They attribute temporary causes to adversity, rather than permanent causes, as is the case with pessimists.

He has also found in studies with both youth and adults that shouting goes hand in hand with a growth mentality. According to Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University, people with this type of mentality believe that intelligence, talents, skills, qualities and personality can be developed and cultivated through effort and that one 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 reach a high level of performance and achievement.

In short…

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 devote more quality time and deliberate practice to their interests, see meaning and purpose in their work (no matter what it is), and are confident that through their own efforts things will improve.

Bibliographic references:

  • Duckworth, A. (2016). Shout: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Barcelona-Spain; Uranus.
  • Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Random House; New York.
  • K. Anders Ericsson, Ralf Th. Krampe, and Clemens Tesch-Romer (1993). The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. Psychological Review, Vol. 100, pp. 363-406.