For the majority of people, success may seem elusive and difficult to understand exactly how to achieve. There are celebrities, politicians and CEOs who have talked about their journey to success in their chosen career path, but no two stories seem to be exactly the same. It may be because people react to things differently and it’s their individual experiences that turn them into the person they are today, but one might surmise they must have something in common; some special, unique quality that drives their success.
Angela Duckworth is a psychologist who has done extensive research on the concept of “grit.” She presented a TED Talk in which she spoke on grit being the common denominator between all successful persons. “It’s self-control and stick-to-it-iveness.” Grit is perseverance and vision for a long-term goal. It’s finding your passion and pursuing it wholeheartedly letting very little stand in your way.
As college students who plan to take the world by storm and use our degrees for the betterment of society to build careers and succeed in areas we’ve only dreamed of, grit is an important characteristic to learn to further utilize. Building it can be a difficult and unique task. A combination of increased work ethic, long-term ambition and perseverance can go a long way in achieving and even surpassing professional goals.
There has always been interest in what it takes to be successful, but there has never been one clear, hard-lined answer until now. Even with all of the research Dr. Duckworth has conducted, she still doesn’t know exactly what causes grit. The good news is that “anyone, man or woman, adult or child, can learn to be gritty.” It’s just a matter of figuring out what your passion is and pursuing it.
Dr. Duckworth has written multiple books on grit and ways it can be improved. Although she doesn’t claim to know what causes grit, there is a way to test for it that can even increase your propensity for it. “Duckworth offers what amounts to a four-step program, the last step of which is to overcome pessimism by cultivating what her fellow psychologist Carol Dweck calls a ‘growth mindset.’” Each step is purposed to further personal growth and translating that into professional achievement.
The first step is to identify a burning interest. There may be pressure to put time and effort into something other than your passion in order to ensure future financial security but that may also be all that is achieved this way. Having passion for your career is what drives you to want to work harder and spend all of your free time improving your skills.
Secondly, practice makes perfect. As with almost everything in life, continued and consistent practice is necessary improve upon your natural skills. The importance here is to spend as much time as possible trying to become an expert in your field. Completely immersing yourself in a subject, researching what others have done and perfecting the formula is what leads to more open doors and more opportunities to do higher level work in that field. Practice while always keeping in mind, “How can I do it better?” The third step is to “develop a sense of higher purpose, by which Duckworth means I must believe that my passion will improve the world.” This step is both important and surprising because of its unique purpose. A selfless desire to change the world. It can’t just be about your success, your climb to glory and self-fulfillment. It has to about something a lot more substantial than that. Self aggrandizement only does so much in the way of personal gratification. “Duckworth offers evidence that people who think their pursuits contribute to the well-being of others are more likely to meet their ‘top-level goals.’” Whether this is true for all success stories, is debatable but a higher purpose, at the very least, adds a greater motivation for driven ambition.
The ultimate goal is to be able to take your passion and turn it into a career full of limitless opportunities. Grit is the key to building a successful career while breaking down barriers and paving the way to greatness, while changing lives in the process. Instilling grit is about more than just success, it’s about having the capacity to find your inner strength and desire and turning into a way of life.
Elizabeth Fequiere is a opinion writer at the Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]