Much has been written about ‘grit’ recently; in many circles it has become the “buzz word” of character strengths. Rightfully so: Grit—a passionate commitment to a single mission and an unwavering dedication to achieve that mission— has proven to be a powerful predictor of success. Gritty people see achievement as a marathon; their advantage is stamina. Despite setbacks, they do not give up. The impact of grit can be seen in many examples from who will last during West Point’s demanding “Beast Barracks” phase, to achievement on the National Spelling Bee, to student grade point averages, to teacher longevity and success in the workforce. Here is leading education researcher Angela Duckworth presenting on grit in her well known TED Talk:
For me, grit is powerfully reflected in Greenwood students’ journeys in memorizing and publicly reciting The Gettysburg Address or an alternative speech. In this age of instant gratification, all of our boys held out a long term goal (understand and memorize the speech and master it to the point of public recitation), and worked over time to achieve that goal. Some students were able to accomplish this in a matter of months, for others, it is a multi-year endeavor. What’s important is that our boys never give up—they keep working toward this goal even when they may have doubted their ability to achieve it, even when they were bored, or even when they would rather use their fee time in different ways… they kept persevering and kept their long term goal in mind. And we all saw the results on February 13.
We talked about grit through throughout the “Gettysburg Process” and reinforced the many ways this character strength applies throughout life. We reflect on grit when studying characters in literature and look for examples in our community to reinforce and celebrate grit when we see it. I expect that each of the boys—those who recited and those who made progress and will recite next year— recognize the value of persevering toward a goal and see that they can accomplish something they might not have thought they could through dedication, practice, and …..GRIT.
And the best way to foster grit is through a “Growth Mindset” and an optimistic outlook. If you believe you in yourself enough to take a risk and think you can achieve a goal with practice, you are obviously more likely to keep trying. To learn more, try the 12 item Grit Scale, developed by Angela Duckworth, which provides insight into your personal “grittiness.”
– Stewart Miller, Headmaster of The Greenwood School