In this TED Talk, “Grit: The power of passion and perseverance,” Angela Lee Duckworth explains that a significant predictor of success is “grit” or “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals.” This characteristic is evidenced in school-aged students, military cadets, sales people, teachers working in challenging neighborhoods, and other contexts as more important than talent or intelligence (IQ) for success.
After leaving a high-powered job and transitioning to becoming a public school teacher in New York City Public Schools, Angela Lee Duckworth began to see that “IQ was not the only difference between the best and the worst students.”
She shares, “After many years, I came to the conclusion that what we need in education is a much better understanding of students and learning from a motivational perspective, from a psychological perspective.” She began to ask the question, “What if your ability to do well in school and in life depends on much more than your ability to learn quickly and easily?”
These questions led her to graduate school where she became a psychologist who studied kids and adults in a full range of challenging settings to determine who was successful and why. Throughout these various contexts, “one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success.” This characteristic was not “social intelligence, good looks, physical health, or IQ – it was grit.”
She defines grit as “having stamina” and focusing on pursuing your future goals and sticking with those beyond a few weeks or months.
Instead, gritty people stick with their goals for years, “working really hard to make that future happen.” They see life “as a marathon, not a sprint.”
Her studies took her to Chicago Public Schools where she found that “grittier kids were more likely to graduate even when matched with characteristics like family income, standardized achievement scores, or whether they felt safe at school.” Grit is especially important for kids at risk for dropping out.
She repeats one of the questions she is asked most frequently: How do we keep students motivated?
Unfortunately, the answer is still unknown but it is apparent that talented students are not always those who are gritty. In fact, she says, “many talented kids who simply do not follow through on their commitments. In our data, grit is usually unrelated or inversely related to measures of talent.”
Angela Lee Duckworth cites an idea developed at Stanford University by Carol Dweck, PhD on growth mindset as the best idea she has heard about building grit.
“Growth mindset,” she says, “is the belief that the ability to learn isn’t fixed. It can change with your effort.” She shares Dr. Dweck’s work that when young people “learn about the brain and how it grows in response to challenge, they are more likely to persevere when they fail because they don’t believe failure is a permanent condition.”
Myanmar leaders are likely familiar with grit, perhaps without naming that characteristic. Myanmar leaders have demonstrated perseverance through many challenging circumstances already. As leaders of various industries, whether we’re working with youth or with elderly, with disabled populations or business leaders, when we adopt a growth mindset and put our passions toward pursuing our goals, we can develop grit.
In Angela Lee Duckworth’s words, “We need to take our best ideas, strongest intuitions, test and measure them. We have to be willing to fail, to be wrong and start over again with lessons learned.”
About DeBoer Fellowship
The DeBoer Fellowship develops change leaders across all sectors of Myanmar society. Through a multi-year training class and additional public programs, the DeBoer Fellowship serves Myanmar by helping to grow competent, compassionate, and ethical leaders. For more information about DeBoer Fellowship or to apply for the Fellowship, please visit: www.deboerfellowship.org.