Monday, October 24, 2016

How gritty are you?

I visit many schools, and I often hear or see the word "grit" as I walk through the halls and visit the classrooms.  It has become a buzzword in the education world.  What is grit and can we develop it within ourselves?  Angela Duckworth, a Harvard and University of Pennsylvania trained neurobiologist with a Ph.D. in Psychology explores the concept of grit in depth, in her book entitled Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.  Grit, Duckworth tells, us, is a combination of passion and perseverance which, lucky for us, is not fixed.  It is about "holding the same top level goal for a very long time." 

Duckworth points out that while our culture has a bias for those who are "naturals," we can actually become grittier and improve upon our potential as we get older.  Throughout her book, Duckworth shares interviews and findings with various "grit paragons" such as West Point graduates, athletes, and musicians.  Interestingly, grit paragons did not necessarily start with just one activity (say, baseball, for example), but typically had explored several interests before finding their passion.  Once they find their passion (or "interest"), the next step is practice in a deliberate way which includes clearly defining a stretch goal, engage with full concentration and effort, get immediate feedback, and repeat (with reflection and refinement).  After practice, comes purpose, as in, connecting whatever work you do to something greater than yourself.  Through the practice of "job crafting" Duckworth posits that you can change your mindset about your current position to increase its connection to your core values. 

Within the context of parenting, Duckworth points out that parenting to enhance grit is best achieved by finding a balance between being supportive and demanding.  Duckworth also touts the importance of growth mindset, which, as opposed to a fixed mindset, is one in which we perceive that the brain is a muscle and can grow, thus intelligence is not fixed.  She gives examples of statements that promote growth mindset, such as "great job, what's one thing you could do even better?"   Overall, it's an interesting read.

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