“In our talent-obsessed culture, talent has been studied and is well understood. Perseverance? Not so much.” says renowned psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth.
A frequent speaker for TED, Duckworth has studied the difference between a naturally talented one versus somebody that purely has the perseverance and grit to accomplish their goals.
While students generally strive to become a jack of all trades, Duckworth claims this is no longer the best approach to, say, getting into your dream college.
In fact, Duckworth worked directly with admissions officers and employers to understand what mattered the most in an attractive candidate. While many students may have expected the answer to be the student who stretched their hands to cover as many extra curiculars as possible, the reality was students that displayed grit were valued the most.
Angela likens the struggle of a student to that of a dancer, and quoted Martha Graham in saying how true grit results in “Fatigue so great that the body cries, even in its sleep…there are daily small deaths.”
The fact that a person has the ability to immerse themselves into something to the point that they suffer for it shows a much better picture of their character than a sheet with perfect grades. Despite the struggles they may face, this kind of person continues to find joy in what they do for years and years, and this shows a long term value that high test scores simply cannot.
The long term implications of this information are much more important than simply telling students that they must learn to persevere, but instead actually changing the way we teach students how to be successful while they are still in school.
“If you could understand what makes a world-class golfer a world-class golfer, or ballerina, and if you could transport those insights into the classrooms of our children…” Angela says before abruptly ending her train of thought.
She does not need to finish her sentence though, because the message she is trying to convey is an obvious one.