A few months ago, I decided to try taking some IQ tests as a reference for a blog, something that I had not done since I was in elementary school. This proved to be both positive and negative depending on the test taken; yes it was an emotional roller coaster ride. I scored as a genius in some; then was completely lost in others and felt like an idiot. So why is that (besides my own personal instability)?

There are so many different tests to quantify a person’s intelligence out there that you have to wonder if any of them are good indicators of future success or is it just another way to promote an us-and-them attitude. The typical IQ tests have been used as a benchmark of general intelligence for over a century and have been used for educational placement, assessment of intellectual disability, and evaluating job applicants. IQ tests examine some areas of intelligence while neglecting others such as creativity and social intelligence. It can be argued that they use outdated methodology and are biased on the grounds of race, gender and/or class. I think that we all have that friend from school that aced all their exams and was the top of their class but really never lived up to all the expectations of those around them.

Considering these factors, what would be a better way of predicting success? Some say grit, as in, courage and resolve; strength of character. Researchers believe that grit predicts success far more than intelligence or a privileged upbringing. For long-term success, sustaining interest, passion, and persistence for the goal are the keys. The ability to persevere even through hard times and failure is what it takes.

Angela Duckworth is the CEO and founder of Character Lab, a nonprofit that’s focus is to ‘advance the science and practice of character development’. She is arguably the leading expert on grit having studied it for years and writing a book on it. What her research has concluded is that being naturally intelligent and talented is great but to do truly well and flourish, we need the ability to stick to it even through obstacles and failures. She says, “Talent and luck matter to success. But talent and luck are no guarantee of grit. And in the very long run, I think grit may matter as least as much, if not more.”

So how does someone become grittier? (After I wrote this sentence I have the vision of someone rolling around in the sand…different type of grittier.)

Find something that you are passionate about. (This seems to be a hard one for me. I have a lot of interests but I do not really have anything that I would say I am passionate about.) If you are working hard for something through the good and bad and sometimes even boring times, it should really be for something you believe a great deal in. If you want to save the purple-speckled three-toed salamanders, you better love them because who else will? And do you really want to let those guys down? You will hardly stick things out when the going gets tough is you do not have a passion for it.

Be persistent and consistent in your work. (This one, I think, I am good at if you were wondering.) Everyone has crammed for an exam after not always fully applying themselves to the subject at hand but it is much easier to consistently study an hour or so a day. If you have regular, consistent effort everyday towards your goals, you will not have a big flurry of energy and then burn out.

Remember that you can do whatever you set your mind to and survive all of the other stuff that gets in the way. Think of a time when you didn’t think you would get through a really hard time and then remember that you did. Life is a series of ups and downs and you have to realize that you can get through anything because there really is no other option.

There is a theory by Dr. Carol Dweck called growth mindset which is the understanding that abilities and intelligence can be developed. Recent research in neuroscience has shown that the connectivity between neurons can change with experience and leads to new neural pathways being made and strengthening old ones. We can increase our neural growth through the actions we take such as asking questions, practicing, good nutrition and sleep habits. (You can read about this kind of thing in a previous blog I wrote.) It turns out that if you believe that your brain can grow, you behave differently. If you believe that your brain is malleable, it removes the stigma of failure you become less afraid of it because failing also leads to growth.

Both of these researchers were focusing primarily on school-aged children but this does not mean it can’t be applied to an adult. So how does this translate in the real world? It means that even if you are not the smartest person in the class, that doesn’t necessarily mean that success will never be yours. Many famous people throughout history were not the smartest people in the world but had the tenacity and persistence to push through every obstacle thrown at them. If you have the passion, stubbornness, and put in the Herculean effort that it may take, you can do wonders. Hey, who knows, maybe you will be the next self-made millionaire with the next great new thing.

–Janice Willson

If you want to see how gritty you are, take the test here: https://angeladuckworth.com/grit-scale/
You can watch the TedTalks with Dr. Angela Duckworth here: https://www.facebook.com/Illumeably/videos/340381266366980/
And Dr. Carol Dweck here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiiEeMN7vbQ

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

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