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Features : Editorial Last Updated: Jan 16, 2013 - 9:15:46 AM

Success in life: what personality trait shines the brightest?
By Steve Ferber
Jan 16, 2013 - 9:14:44 AM

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It might just be grit.  
In one study of West Point cadets, as reported by, “a cadet’s grit score was the best predictor of success in the rigorous summer training program known as ‘Beast Barracks’. Grit mattered more than intelligence, leadership ability or physical fitness.”  Study authors were quoted as saying: “Grit may be as essential as talent to high accomplishment.”
In related studies (surveys were given to Ivy League undergraduates, teachers, salespeople and National Spelling Bee finalists), the personality trait of grit (perseverance, persistence) demonstrated that grit was as essential as intelligence for human achievement and success. And, surprising to some, there was no link between grit and IQ – in other words, more intelligent people do not necessarily have more grit, and vice versa.
The stirring question now becomes: can grit be taught?  
Lead author and chief study architect Angela Duckworth believes that it can, and in a piece published by, Duckworth posed this critical question: “Which experiences do we give kids to get them in the direction of more grit and not less?”
Duckworth, now an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania (she received a BA in Neurobiology from Harvard and a Masters in Neuroscience from Oxford), focuses her research on what often are called “noncognitive skills,” that is, traits other than intelligence that predict academic and professional achievement.  
Her current research, according to an article published at, “centers on self-control (the ability to regulate emotions, thoughts, and feelings in the service of valued goals) and grit (perseverance and sustained interest in long-term goals).”  The article quotes Duckworth as saying: “I am particularly interested in the subjective experience of exerting self-control and grit - and conscious strategies which facilitate adaptive behavior in the face of temptation, frustration, and distraction."
Interestingly, according to this same article, Duckworth believes that more free time (not more rigorous study) would improve student concentration and effort. The article quoted Duckworth as saying: “ . . . paradoxically and wonderfully, we should free up more time for play, running around and just enjoying childhood.”
Duckworth defines grit as "sticking with things over the very long term until you master them," according to the article, to which Duckworth added: “The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina."  One of Duckworth’s research goals is to “sharpen insights" about the psychological barriers that prevent well-prepared students from completing degrees -- and to test interventions that might help students overcome those barriers.
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