Dr. Angela Duckworth and Grit

A few weeks ago I was randomly looking at the MacArthur “Genius” Grant winners and came across Dr. Angela Duckworth, who researches grit and self-control with regards to education. In watching her video on the MacArthur website she describes her research, which seems geared towards shifting the focus away from talent to grit with regards to how to measure success.

When she talked about grit, sparks went off in my head, and I thought that it might be the missing part of my equation with regards to habit formation - willpower over time.

However, after taking her 12 - point Grit Scale, I realized that there are some other issues - and I’m not quite so certain. 

The scale seems to focus on two things -the ability to overcome setbacks and the ability to stick with one thing for a long time. The latter is what I’d say is my missing ingredient - the endurance to continue a task until automaticity is reached.

The former seems, after watching her TED Talks video, to be a smattering of different things - from dealing with obstacles to putting yourself through the pain period to push past plateaus and achieve true mastery. 

And although this is very applicable for becoming the best in a field, it’s not exactly what I’m thinking is needed for habituation.

On one hand, you can view grit as overcoming everything - the pain of willpower, the pain of endurance, the pain of really pushing past plateaus in learning.

But I’d like to view them as separate - when I choose to practice the violin today, I’m using Willpower to do so, which is a depleteable resource for that day. A few months in, and I’m struggling with a depletion of Endurance. And I can form a habit of practicing the violin at a certain time without actually mastering the instrument - which is usually caused by practicing easy sections and not putting myself through the painful trial of consistently pinpointing and practicing aspects of the art that are not perfect.

These three things act in different ways.

If Grit is some sort of combination of Endurance and overcoming, I want to know  - do the two act separately? What replenishes Grit? And how does it react - is it like Willpower? Can you train it?  

Right now her research seems very focused on identifying Grit - but to me this isn’t very satisfying - it simply becomes and indicator for success - I want to know how to foster it.

Nonetheless, I’m very curious what form her future research will take.