Well, the term Grit was developed by a psychologist and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania named Angela Duckworth. In her words, “Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals”. She believes that your Grit level is a better predictor of success than talent, which is contrary to what we are shown in movies, news and public life in general.
Growth vs. Fixed Mindset
When we see a successful soccer or football player, we assume they were just born talented. But, this is often not the case. Being successful in what you do requires an internal commitment and stamina. You need to work for what you want with determination. Yes, there are some extremely rare cases where this is not required, yet there are so few it is not even worth talking about. Carol Dweck describes this mindset as the growth mindset or “the power of yet”, “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work — brains and talent are just the starting point”. In other words, talent and intelligence can only get you so far. More importantly, it is one’s desire to improve that is the main driver behind success.
The 10,000 Hour Rule
Another specialist in this field is Anders Ericsson who has studied the transition from novice to expert as well as “geniuses” (in all fields) his entire career. Why can some people do things that others can’t? Specifically, he looks at how high achievers (like spelling bee champions or professional violinists) got to the point they are at now. He looks at how they practice and how they train. What he found was that in order to become an expert at something, you need to practice it at least 20 hours a week for 10 years — that’s 10,000 hours. The practice also needs to be focused in the sense that you engage in the solitary practice of trying to improve. This is called deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is the act of working on stuff you aren’t good at — which is extremely hard because the work required to grow is a painful process that isn’t necessarily fun. Human beings do not like doing things they aren’t good at, especially when they could do things they’re better at.
Take Usain Bolt — the fasted person on the planet. Bolt knows that his weak point is the start of the 100-meter dash because of his height. So, he deliberately practices the start of the race as training his weaknesses provides the biggest payoff. Deliberate practice requires two pieces: knowing where you need to improve and then finding some exercise that allows you to efficiently and deliberately practice that weakness. Therefore, deliberate practice is the constant back and forth between figuring out where you suck and then improving where you suck: the problem is the better you get, the harder it is to see where you suck.
So, a combination of a growth mindset and Grit will ensure that you have what it takes to spend the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice required to become an expert in something.
So we know that Grit can drive success and achievement, but what exactly is Grit made up of?
Characteristics of Grit:
Essential to having passion and perseverance is being courageous. One who possesses Grit is not afraid of failure but actually embraces it as an opportunity to grow — knowing full well that growth is hard. Every successful person fails many times before they reach their goals and engages in deliberate practice when they suck at something. There is information wrapped up in defeat. Defeat informs you of where you went wrong so that you can improve. As Forbes says, courage is like a muscle — it needs to be exercised daily in order to grow.
Yes, I know this is a long and complicated word. But, it is not as complex as it sounds. In this context, conscientiousness means being diligent and dependable. If there is a task at hand, you get it done. However, it’s not just getting the task done, but getting it done right and in an organized fashion. Someone who is conscientious has strong moral values and generally sticks to their gut instincts.
Now this one is quite obvious as it was in Duckworth’s definition. The phrase “practice makes perfect” applies here (although, Gritty people tend not to strive for perfection, but you get the point). In order to succeed, you need lots of practice. How do athletes get to be so good at what they do? Practice. How does a magician learn to perform their tricks without a slip-up? Practice, and lots of it. This is exactly what Ericsson is referring to.
In his book Resilience, Why Things Bounce Back, author Andrew Zolli defines resilience as “the ability of people, communities, and systems to maintain their core purpose and integrity among unforeseen shocks and surprises”. Being resilient is boasting a certain mental toughness. You have the ability to pick yourself up and dust yourself off when you fail. Resilience requires optimism in practice. It’s hard to get back up and keep going after being defeated. You need to maintain a positive mindset that things will go right the next time you try. Furthermore, resilience requires creativity to come up with different strategies for your next attempt. It also demands confidence in yourself. In short, resilience is a combination of optimism, creativity, and confidence.
Last, but probably most important is passion. People who are passionate feel a deep sense of purpose and are greatly self-aware. They know what they want. But, they don’t see themselves as perfect because they know that perfect isn’t feasible. Rather, they strive for excellence over perfection. A passionate person sees themselves as constantly growing and developing. There is always room to grow, there is always something new to learn. In their quest for excellence, they are unwavering in striving to reach their goals. As Forbes states, the passion aspect of Grit “is about seeking, striving, finding, and never yielding”.
So What Are the Findings?
Grit is a character trait that comes handy in any setting. To prove that those who possess Grit are more successful, I am going to share some of the results of Duckworth’s studies:
- West Point cadets who scored higher on the Grit Test were 60% more likely to succeed than their peers
- Ivy League undergrads who had more Grit also had higher GPA’s than their peers — even though they had lower SAT scores and weren’t as “smart”
- When comparing two people who are the same age, but have different levels of education, grit (and not intelligence) more accurately predicts which one will be better educated
- Competitors in the National Spelling Bee outperform their peers not because of IQ, but because of their Grit and commitment to more consistent practices
These statistics are an amazing discovery for such an understudied phenomenon. For all of these reasons and more, PlayFitt sees Grit as the perfect word for our in-app currency. We want our users to grow in all aspects of their lives (whether it be physically or mentally) and Grit is an important ingredient required for that. We are also trying to make the growth associated with physical activity as rewarding and pleasant as possible.
By performing missions and hitting streaks, you are proving to yourself that you care about your overall well being. Against all odds, you are building the daily habits necessary to allow you to stick to a schedule and overcome challenges and distractions over and over again. Your dedication and commitment deserve to be rewarded. It takes Grit to earn Grit.
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