Angela Duckworth operates the Duckworth Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, which studies the interplay between grit and self-control. According to the website:
“Grit is the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals. Self-control is the voluntary regulation of behavioral, emotional, and attentional impulses in the presence of momentarily gratifying temptations or diversions.”
Duckworth studied under Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, at the University of Pennsylvania where she is an associate professor. She has focused on what it means to succeed. Passion and perseverance are the essence of success and no one knows this better than Duckworth. Her extensive research has found something profound.
“Character is at least as important as IQ,” Duckworth says.
Duckworth’s research recently won her a $625,000 MacArthur Fellowship. It is an extraordinary honor. It has been dubbed by the media as the “genius” award because of the prominence of those selected, but the award does more than recognize what the recipient has already done.
While it is meant to appreciate and celebrate, it is largely given to inspire and promote creative development. It is specifically offered to help advance the potential the winner has for the creative expression of his or her work. In this regard Angela Duckworth’s potential is enormous. See more on her work in this video.
Duckworth and her colleague devised a measure of grit and self-control that could predict successful outcomes in different situations better than other measures such as standardized testing. Grit scores predicted final ranking in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, perseverance at West Point Military Academy and graduation from Chicago public schools. Additionally, she found measures of self-control are better predictors than IQ of both report card grades and improvement in these grades.
You can find out your own grit score (free registration) right here from the Duckworth lab by clicking on the link to the right of the page.
In highly innovative research, Duckworth has been able to demonstrate that children can acquire the ability for self-control by learning tactics that help them adopt and then internalize these skills. The potential for the application of these strategies is now evolving.
She has already begun looking at how self-control can safeguard children against detrimental weight gain — particularly as they enter adolescence — and how self control is associated with lower levels of many behaviors, such as smoking cigarettes, using marijuana, and binge drinking. She has even found evidence that children with higher levels of self-control make more friends over time.
One of the main avenues for the creative potential of this work is likely to be found with the application of intentional changes. Duckworth believes the direction for research is in the area of helping to correct maladaptive or flawed beliefs. From her website she explains how this would work:
…individuals who believe that frustration and confusion are signs that they should quit what they are doing may be taught that these emotions are common during the learning process. Likewise, individuals who believe that mistakes are to be avoided at all costs may be taught that the most effective form of practice …entails tackling challenges beyond one’s current skill level.
What we all know to be true is that all our best intentions won’t move us forward without self-control. Grit is the long-term effort toward a goal and self-control is the more immediate struggle with the temptations that take us off track. It is the fusion of self-control and motivation that helps us achieve out goal. We need both. Or, as Lao Tzu has said:
“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.”
From all of us here at Psych Central a sincere and heartfelt congratulations to Angela Duckworth for winning this most prestigious award.