The Power of Passion and Persistence

Have you ever wondered why some people succeed in life? Is it just their good luck – being in the right place at the right time? Or their IQ? Or their natural talents? Or even good looks? It turns out that none of these are likely to predict how successful you will be. But there is a skill you can build that might.

Professor Angela Lee Duckworth from the University of Pennsylvania has found that the most successful people in any field have a ferocious determination when it comes to mastering new behaviors that plays out in two ways: they’re unusually resilient and hardworking, and they know in a very deep way what they want. It appears that it’s their combination of passion and perseverance that makes them high achievers. In a word, they have grit.

Want to learn more about grit? Then watch Angela’s TED talk to understand why she believes this is a skill each of us can cultivate.

What Will You Learn?

  • [3:00] Grit is the passion and perseverance to pursue your long term goals. It is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
  • [4:31] Talent alone is not enough, and is usually unrelated to grit. In fact, many talented people are unsuccessful because they simply do not follow through on their commitments.
  • [4:51] One way to build grit is through the “growth mindset” idea developed by Carol Dweck from Stanford University. It is the belief that your ability to learn is not fixed, but that it can change with effort. When you believe that the brain can change and grow in response to challenges you see failure as a temporary event and you are much more likely to persevere when you fail.
  • [5:28] Growth mindset is one idea for building grit but we still need to know more.

What Can You Try?

  • Take the grit scale – Start by testing how gritty you are by taking Angela’s grit scale.
  • Cultivate a “growth mindset” – instead of viewing your failures as something to hide, use a growth mindset approach to see them as temporary setbacks, and as opportunities to learn new lessons, develop and grow. Look back on some of the times in your life when you have failed. Spend 20 minutes reflecting on one of these and write down what you learned from this experience. How did it help you to develop (learn new skills, take a different approach)? How did it help to you to grow (reflect on what is important to you, how to express your values and strengths)? How can you embrace the fact that failure is simply part of the learning process rather than a judgement of on who you are or what you’re capable of?
  • Create a grit map – Get clear on what you need to be gritty about. What are the things that interest you most and give you a sense of purpose in your work and in your life? These top-level goals are the ones you want to stick with though the successes and the setbacks. These are the goals you want to be the grittiest about.

What are the mid-level goals that make this purpose possible? These are the main projects or activities that you really want to pour your energy into in order to achieve the things that matter to you most. Try to consistently stick with these, but if it makes sense to swap a priority out then be flexible in your approach. What are the low-levels goals that are the means to the end? What are the little things you need to get done this week or this month to move your mid-level goals forward? If it makes sense to change these activities as you go because a better option becomes available then do so.

Be aware that anything you do that’s not on your grit map risks taking you away from achieving the things that matter most to you.

Want More?

How can you develop grit to achieve success in what is important for your life?