I recently came across a 2013 TedTalk by Dr. Angela Duckworth on what is the best predictor of success in a person’s life, including when it comes to goals in education.
Dr. Duckworth left a job in management consulting to teach math to seventh-graders in a New York public school. When teaching, she quickly realized that IQ wasn't the only thing separating the successful students from those who struggled. And after more experience, she realized that what is needed in education is “a much better understanding of students and learning from a motivational perspective, from a psychological perspective.”
Dr. Duckworth left teaching and went to graduate school to become a psychologist. Her research spanned a wide range – including West Point Cadets, national spelling bee participants, and corporate sales people. In all of those very different contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. It wasn't social intelligence, good looks, physical health or IQ. It was grit. She defines grit as the following:
“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint.”
Dr. Duckworth goes on to say she does not have the answer of how to build grit in people and that is it something we all need to work to understand better. “We need to take our best ideas, our strongest intuitions, and we need to test them. We need to measure whether we've been successful, and we have to be willing to fail, to be wrong, to start over again with lessons learned.”
Another researcher, Dr. Carol Dweck at Stanford University, studied something called the “growth mindset” – the idea that when kids learn that the brain grows in response to a challenge, they're much more likely to persevere when they fail, because they don't believe that failure is a permanent condition.
I would bet that while our students at Impact Network might not study the “growth mindset” at an early age, they see around them the daily challenges of rural life in Zambia. They see people fail and try again, because of the very nature of their circumstance, and ultimately they see their communities succeed because of this. So I believe that every day, our scholars are learning how to be “gritty”, and that given the chance to attend school, they will be successful! They will be the future lawyers, doctors, nurse and teachers of Zambia.
Take the grit test yourself!