Monday, 16 november 2020 | Redacción CEU
In a scenario like the current one, both at an individual and organizational level, it is more important than ever to ask about the aspects that are fundamental to survival, competition, and, therefore, to success. When answering this question, there are many keys that come to to light. For some people, this is a question of attitude. For others, it is about reacting quickly. There are people who defend the importance of deep self-awareness and others who bet on strong and effective leadership. There are individuals who also refer to the adaptation to the digital context and, of course, many people talk about talent and intelligence. In fact, in the recipe for success, the more ingredients there are, the better results we can expect. Nevertheless, are there any essential ingredients on this way to success? According to The Theory of Grit, there are.
Angela Duckworth, psychologist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is the figure behind The Theory of Grit. She developed it after studying and analyzing the common patterns in the cadets leaving their military training at West Point. One in five cadets decided to throw in the towel.
Most of these cadets abandoned this experience in the first seven weeks of training. It should be said that the selection process of this institution is really demanding, which means that the candidates who pass the process have very similar physical and intellectual capacities. However, the high dropout rate could indicate that there was an important overlooked aspect in the cadet selection process. In the beginning, there was no theory to explain what could have gone wrong. However, Duckworth concluded after her research (a study in 2007 and another that lasted 10 years and was published in 2019) that all this could be related to their fighting spirit. This idea shaped the concept of grit.
Perseverance and passion
Angela Duckworth has not limited herself to studying only West Point cadets, but she also analyzed those aspects shared by people who have succeeded in their field, like successful sellers, teachers and students or elite athletes. According to the psychologist, all these people, like the West Point cadets, have something in common: a high grit score. What does it mean?
People who stand out for their grit share two characteristics: perseverance and passion. In other words, they are people who are very clear about what they want to achieve and who are willing to make a great effort to achieve it. We can say that they are tenacious and constant people who are not willing to give up in the face of adversity.
Grit is not only a matter of perseverance or tenacity; the passion towards the goal also plays an important role in it. Objectives must really interest subjects. They must also be really focused on achieving them and they have to be goals that last over time. That is, a person with a high grit score does not change from one objective to another as time goes by. Therefore, passion is understood as a high degree of commitment to the goal rather than an intense emotion towards a specific goal.
What can be considered most irreverent or striking aspect about this theory is that talent and intellect are not as crucial as, at first, one might expect in relation to success. According to it, intelligent and talented people may fail if they are not gritty. In addition, Duckworth defends the thesis that grit is something that can be trained. According to this theory, grit is an effective predictor of success and thus people who bet on its "training" may be closer to achieving their goals.