Mind and Body

Grit may be the "secret sauce" for success

Passion and perseverance keep people performing, even when the going gets tough.

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High achievers with track records of success under pressure tend to share one underestimated trait: grit. That’s the upshot of a November 2019 study on students at the United States’ elite military academy, West Point.

In certain contexts, success hinges on “passion and perseverance for long-term goals of personal significance,” the study suggests.

This is #16 on Inverse’s list of 25 striking lessons from 2019 for humans to help maximize our potential.

Researchers analyzed over 11,000 West Point cadets over a decade, exploring the cognitive and non-cognitive factors that might influence their success at the academy. While intelligence matters, grit is the secret ingredient for success — at least in this hyper-competitive, physical context.

“We need to move beyond this aptitude myopia to fully developing a scientific understanding of these other attributes — how to measure them and therefore understand the impact they have on human success,” Michael Matthews, co-author of the study and West Point researcher, told Inverse at the time.

Between admission and graduation, West Point graduates are pushed past their physical and intellectual limits. Surviving the military academy isn’t for the faint of heart, Matthews said.

The more cognitive ability the cadets had, the less physically able, or “gritty,” they were. Cadets with higher IQs and test scores did get better grades during their time at the academy.

But ultimately, their physical ability (how strong or fit they were) and their level of grit predicted whether they would survive the hardest parts of their training and graduate. Grit seems to help people perform when the going gets tough, the findings suggest.

There’s no formula for cultivating grit. As kids grow up, social learning from parents and peers likely influences grit, Matthews said.

“The environment and experience you have as a child — in school, and in your formative years — are instrumental in developing this, ‘Never say die, never quit attitude,’” he said.

And while most people won’t attend West Point, everyone navigates scenarios that demand the best out of them.

“Challenges have a way of finding us. By virtue of being human-being will have epochs of our life where we’re highly challenged,” Matthews said.

“West Point becomes a kind of laboratory for learning how individuals come to succeed under these trying circumstances. The circumstances could be different for you or me, but the psychological impact of the trials and tribulations might be similar.”

Having grit — pursuing goals you care about and sticking with them — will boost chances of achievement, the research demonstrates. Regardless of your cognitive gifts, it’s wise not to underestimate the power of passionate persistence.

As 2019 draws to a close, Inverse is revisiting 25 striking lessons for humans to help maximize our potential. This is #16. Some are awe-inspiring, some offer practical tips, and some give a glimpse of the future. Read the original article here.

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