What is grit and how does it relate to one’s well-being?
Angela Duckworth is a close colleague of Marty Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center. Her research is focused on the concept of grit, which is “a personality trait defined as passion and perseverance for long-term goals,” (Duckworth & Eskreis-Winkler, 2015). Essentially, it can be thought of as a person’s tendency to persist or quit on something over a long period of time. The following content is based off a book review conducted by Andreea Ionela Puiu of Angela Duckworth’s book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” (Puiu, 2017). I aim to tie her summary of the book into our own sense of well-being as well.
Puiu succinctly describes Duckworth’s stance on grit with the following passage: “all individuals have the ability to grow their grit if they direct their focus in four specific ways. The first two stages in the process of growing grit imply to develop a fascination with a specific ability and then to try to improve with every circumstance this ability. The third step implies to remind ourselves the greatest purpose, because a higher level of purpose is directly correlated with a higher level of grit and, finally, to adopt a growth mindset.”
The first two stages of Duckworth’s definition of grit are relatively intuitive. It makes sense that an individual should find a specific interest they have first, and then work hard to develop it. This way, the individual enjoys the journey of achieving their long-term goal, as opposed to only being in it for the end goal. An individual will also be more likely to persist through inevitable adversity if they enjoy what they are doing over the long term. If they only have the end goal in mind, it will be that much easier to throw in the towel altogether when things get difficult. Overall, the first two stages of grit make sense in an individual’s pursuit and achievement of a long term goal. These two stages relate to an individual’s well-being by emphasizing how those who enjoy the process of developing skills interesting and engaging to them are more likely to succeed with long term goals. This strongly ties into Seligman’s PERMA theory of well-being in that individuals likely experience positive emotions such as interest, inspiration, and hope along the journey, as well as experience a strong sense of engagement in related activities (Seligman, 2018).
The third stage of finding purpose in pursuing the long-term goal is also important to consider. According to the idea of grit, those who have a clear purpose for what they are striving for in the long term tend to persist and not quit. Just as the elements of positive emotions and engagement were exemplified in the first two stages, a sense of purpose is the next key step in an individual achieving a long-term goal, which also ties into Seligman’s PERMA theory of well-being (Seligman 2018). There are times, however, where it can be difficult to see the big picture of why we are pursuing a long-term goal. However, it seems that if we can identify the larger purpose of the long-term goal, we will be more likely to carry it out. Perhaps a strong purpose could have to do with positively impacting others, or to ultimately apply your talents to a better setting. These will also help the individual in finding more meaning and fulfillment throughout the journey, which will help them to achieve a better sense of overall well-being while demonstrating characteristics of grit.
For the fourth and final stage, I agree with the power of having a growth mindset. In anything that is worth pursuing, it is beneficial for an individual to say something like “there is always more to learn” or “how can I learn to do this skill even better.” Essentially, the individual views ability as something that is developed and not fixed or predetermined. By constantly seeking areas to improve, it will feel contradictory for an individual to have thoughts of discontinuing with the goal. It also seems more optimistic and interesting in nature than opposite statements such as “I have learned enough” or “I already have all the skills I need,” which is more of a fixed mindset than the previous inquisitive and goal-oriented thoughts. Therefore, it is useful to have a growth mindset in order to persist through a long-term goal. When things become difficult or failures occur, the individual will view it more as a learning experience and an opportunity to grow than a demonstration of their inability to do something. Having individuals think these more positive growth-oriented thoughts seems like it could tie into an individual having a better sense of well-being as well.
To summarize, individuals who demonstrate characteristics of grit tend to identify a long-term goal of interest to them and develop necessary skills to accomplish it. They also have a strong sense of purpose to reflect on when the goal becomes tough and also have a growth mindset, all of which can tie into a person achieving a better sense of well-being. This is likely why those who demonstrate grit tend to have a good sense of well-being, and vice versa (Salles, Cohen, & Mueller, 2014). Thank you for having the determination to read through this article. I hope that you gained something of value from it in your own pursuit of long-term goals and achieving a better sense of well being!