A couple of years ago, I was asked to do a literature review on grit. I was to examine grit in relation to doctoral students’ persistence through challenging academic environments. At the time, I was not familiar with Angela Duckworth’s research or the notion that something more than talent/innate ability or IQ could predict achievement.
What is Grit?
Dr. Duckworth defines grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. That is goals where the rewards are not immediate. Working toward an advanced degree, like the PhD, is an example of a goal where those who successfully attain the degree might have had to rely on grit. While resilience may play a role in this trait, grit is really about having passion and stamina to persist toward a very long-term goal despite obstacles and the absence of immediate rewards.
Grit and Working Toward Long-Term Goals
From talking to current students and recent graduates, I realize that the journey toward a PhD is, at times, jarring and curvaceous. Those who hope to withstand the twists and turns have to be resilient and self-efficacious. Besides, if one loses passion for attaining their goal, working towards the goal becomes very difficult to do.
As I begin my first year as a doctoral student at UCLA, I am also starting my first year of blogging on this site. When I initially started learning about blogs, I realized very quickly that I did not know anything about HTML, CSS, SEO, or traffic generation; topics that many successful bloggers understand. The learning curve has been incredibly steep and at times daunting. While I am still learning a lot in these areas, the obstacles and little-wins on the path to achieving a successful blog have motivated me to press on.
More on Grit
In her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Dr. Duckworth explains that a gritty person is resilient, has the ability to consider their long-term goals, and possesses the drive to keep pushing despite setbacks. Dr. Duckworth also suggests that to be gritty, you must cultivate a “growth mindset,” a concept coined by Stanford Psychologist, Carol Dweck, to describe the underlying beliefs that people have about learning, talents, abilities, and intelligence. I write more about growth and fixed mindsets here.
My knowledge of the concepts of grit and growth mindset have given me a valuable perspective for working toward very long-term goals. Choosing to try again after setbacks is what I believe will allow me to revel in the small wins on my journey to a PhD.
With sustained passion, perseverance, and the belief that learning anything takes sustained effort, I will be able to set and achieve my long-term goals.
Also published on Medium.