Have you worked out the formula to success yet?

According to the psychologist Angela Duckworth the secret to success has been put down to a combination of perseverance and passion towards long-term goals which she has termed as grit. Duckworth’s TED Talk has over 16 million views and explains the concept of grit in more detail. Her research validated that although intelligence and talent is often required, these two concepts alone don’t always lead to goal attainment. But rather determination, hard work and a drive to improve were some of the other factors that led to success.

Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.

Nelson Mandela

Grit is one of the latest ‘self-help’ buzz words and has taken off in schools across America where some students are even being tested on their levels of grit (you can undertake a version of the test here). Enthusiasm for grit is also growing in schools and workplaces in Australia too.

Although grit is an exciting idea, some say that it has outpaced any evidence to back it up.

Marcus Crede, an assistant professor of psychology at Iowa State University, thinks grit is overrated and tends to focus on high achievers not the broader population.

Research undertaken by Crede and his colleagues, Tynan and Harms (2017), looked at 66,000 people and found that grit could just be an alternate name for conscientiousness, which is one of the Big 5 personality traits that are already known (the others being openness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism).

Another study by Eskreis-Winkler, Shulman, Beal and Duckworth (2014) compared grit with other variables to determine retention in the military, the workplace, in schools and marriage. Their analysis showed that general intelligence, physical health and fitness played more of a role in predicting retention than grit across these domains.

The only thing I see that is distinctively different about me is that: I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be outworked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter, you might be sexier. But if we get on the treadmill together, there’s two things: You’re getting off first or I’m going to die. It’s really that simple.

Will Smith

Despite the critics, grit resonates with this author who supports any concept that helps people to achieve their goals. I like grit as it reminds people to think about what they are passionate about during goal setting which is often overlooked. Instead, people tend to aim for someone else’s goals or what is expected of them. Yet self-concordant goals, those that are meaningful and interesting to the individual, will make them more likely to be achieved (Linley, Nielsen, Wood, Gillett & Biswas-Diener, 2010).

Ultimately, there are many paths to goal attainment and success, and most of these come down to you and which of your own resources (e.g. intelligence, talent, physical health, fitness, passion or perseverance) you use to get you there.

So have a think, what is your It?