Grit: what do long term passions look like?

Angela Duckworth is a psychologist researching grit. Grit is the quality of people to work hard and keep focusing on their long term goals, or their long term passions. Grit consists of two aspects: resilience, the ability to continue after setbacks, and consistent long term goals or passions. People with much grit are less easily distracted and conquer setbacks and obstacles more effectively (one study this was found in is Duckworth et al. (2007). In a study by Duckworth & Quinn (2009) grit was found to be a better predictor of academic success than IQ and, surprisingly, grit was negatively correlated to IQ.

I find the research into grit interesting. It fits with Carol Dweck's research into the growth mindset and Anders Ericsson's research into deliberate practice and elite performance. A long term focus, persistence, and resilience are important prerequisites for building high levels of expertise or competence.

At the same time, the research into grit seems to be still in its infancy. An important question I have about the grit concept is what long term passions or goals precisely look like. If you look at the tool with which Duckworth and her colleagues measure grit (see here), this does not become quite clear. At which level do these long term goals have to be specified. Does it matter whether they are defined in terms of achievements or in terms of learning? How narrow or specific do these goals or passions have to be?  To which degree are they static or dynamic? I imagine that, as a young person, you cannot oversee how your life will evolve and that your experiences affect how you will think about what your passion or long term goals are and how they will change or evolve. Is is perhaps so that thinking about your long term goals or passions is a continuous process in which you keep refining and redefining what they are? In what I have now read I have not found answers to these types of questions and I am keen to learn more.


Patrice Palmer said…
Thank you for your post. I enjoyed reading the piece published by The Jubilee Centre. Although I have presented to English as a Second Language teachers about grit, growth mindset and second language acquisition (SLA), I make sure that I remind teachers that it is not the solution for all language learners. The reason I felt that grit and growth mindset could be applied to SLA is because I see it as a marathon and not a sprint. It takes between 3 to 10 years to attain a level of language required for post secondary studies. Dweck recently spoke at an educational conference in February 2016 where she explained that "Growth mindsets are not a magic trick that will solve every challenge in the classroom" (Ebad, 2016). Furthermore, Dweck talked about the importance of sitting with students to figure out what they are thinking, and tie this process with their learning. My biggest take-away from Dweck's talk was her comment related to "growing brains for a larger goal". For my students, improving their language skills was not just about learning to write a better essay but for a more meaningful purpose which is to work in Canada. As teachers, we need to use several strategies to help students learn language, and having grit and a growth mindset are two more.
Coert Visser said…
Hi Patrice, thank you for your comment. I agree with what you say. We should not expect a growth mindset to solve each and every problem. One of the things I use a lot in combination with a growth mindset perspective is self determination theory. A growth mindset is necessary for putting in effort and persisting, self determination theory is a useful perspective for understanding what topics are worthwhile to put prolonged effort into. I generally sympathize with the grit idea but I think it is an underdeveloped construct. Also, as research has shown, cultivating a growth mindset is probably the most effective way of promoting grit (versus directly trying to build grit).

Thanks for you comment!
Patrice Palmer said…
I appreciate your response. I would like to read more about self-determination theory. Is it Deci that you recommend?
Coert Visser said…
Yes, publications by Deci & Ryan are very helpful. Unfortunately, they mainly write academic papers and handbook chapters. Here are a few posts I have written which may be a good starting point: