Two Essential Traits of Highly Successful People
“Going on one more round, when you don’t think you can, that’s what makes all the difference in your life.”- Sylvester Stallone
What are the traits that distinguish the highly successful from the mediocre people?
Who are the people at the very top of most professions? What makes them special?
What qualities best determine which cadets make it through West Point or Green Beret training?
What is the best predictor of which students will graduate on time and go on successfully to higher education?
These are the questions that Dr. Angela Duckworth answers in her book called GRIT.
Dr. Duckworth studied high achieving individuals in various fields to determine what set them apart from average performers. The primary focus of her research was to determine why some people succeed and others fail.
Spoiler alert! It has very little to do with talent or IQ!
According to her research, the two primary factors that distinguish the high achievers from the failures are: Passion and Perseverance. This combination of factors is what she calls “GRIT.”
Here is what she discovered. Consistently, the high achievers that she interviewed did not have the highest Intelligence Quotients, nor did they have the most talent. They tended to be the persons who manifested a high degree of passion for their field or for their pursuits.
Passion is defined as having a “strong emotional drive” for their work, sport, activity, or interest. People who had passion for their pursuits were highly determined to succeed. They would never dream of doing something else.
“Ignoring your passion is like dying a slow death. . . Passion whispers to you through your feelings, beckoning you toward your highest good. Pay attention to what makes you feel energized, connected, stimulated- what gives you your juice. Do what you love, give it back in the form of service, and you will do more than succeed. You will triumph.”- Oprah Winfrey
This leads us to the second factor: perseverance. The high achievers consistently persisted with their pursuit regardless of set-backs, difficulties, or obstacles. They never thought of quitting. They tended to have an attitude of “I will succeed come hell or high water!”
The most accomplished never quit because they have direction. They know exactly what they want, they are resilient, and work hard. They don’t let obstacles prevent them from achieving their success.
Grit effectively predicted success across domains. It did not matter whether it was a cadet trying to get through West Point training or whether is was a student trying to win the national Spelling Bee. Grit is the formula that best predicted success.
In my own life, I have often wondered about why I was able to first of all, get my degree in psychology when I knew others who failed. The field of psychology was a subject of high interest to me thanks to one of my college teachers who greatly sparked my interest. I was always curious about what makes people “tick.”
I also never gave up even though I had some set-backs. I flunked one of my graduate courses which then negatively affected my grade point average. As a result I was placed on probation. My self-esteem plunged significantly! I thought I was a failure and maybe not smart enough to succeed in college!
I had to do some soul-searching to decide what to do. Should I quit, or should I continue to press on and never give up? I decided to do the latter. I used my emotions to motivate me to persevere. Failure for me was not an option! I either succeed or go back to working in the fields doing manual labor. Ugh!
Not only did I earn my master’s degree in psychology, but later I went on to teach almost the same class that I had failed at the same college where I had flunked the class. Later, I also taught psychology classes at several other universities.
I went on to have a successful career in educational psychology working with children. I was successful because I had “grit.”
Do you have enough grit to succeed in your pursuits?
So, how do you develop GRIT?
Follow your passion
Determine what interests you? What do you enjoy doing most in life? What drives you? What do you most often think about? If you had to start all over again, what would you do? People who find what they are doing “intrinsically interesting” are more likely to persevere over the long run.
Apply “deliberate practice.”
Strive to do just a little bit better everyday in your endeavor. Set a clearly defined stretch goal, i.e. a goal that will stretch you to become slightly better. Give it your full concentration and effort. Ask for immediate and informative feedback. Focus on improving your weaknesses. Put in the work. Accept that it will take long-term effort. Learn to love the burn!
Determine your purpose
High achievers tend to have a purpose that transcends their own needs. Purpose, in grit terms, means “the intention to contribute to the well-being of others.” In other words, how can I be of benefit to other people? How can I make the world a better place? Individuals who have a purpose as described, tend to be grittier.
Resolve to make tomorrow better
Understand that it is up to you to determine your future. Maintain an optimistic outlook. Practice optimistic self-talk. Develop a “growth mindset.” People with a growth mindset tend to believe that a person’s intelligence can be changed and is not fixed. They believe that effort is more important to success than talent. Persons who manifested these ways of thinking, tended to be grittier.
“To be gritty is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. To be gritty is to hold fast to an interesting and purposeful goal. To be gritty is to invest, day after week after year, in challenging practice. To be gritty is to fall down seven times, and rise eight.
When you look at the best of the best across domains, the combination of passion and perseverance sustained over the long term is a common denominator.”- Dr. Angela Duckworth
Reference: GRIT-The Power of Passion and Perseverance- Angela Duckworth
To your success,
David C Figueroa
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