effort. That’s why I think things like
optimism and a growth mindset are
correlated with grit. People who think
things are fixed or unchangeable have
trouble when bad things happen — and a
lot of grit is about overcoming setbacks.
The second driver is valuing your
goal. I recently heard from a guy who
became a quadriplegic, and now he’s a
social worker, and works with people
who have had severe personal tragedies
happen to them. This is something
my graduate student Lauren Eskreis-
Winkler has been studying. It’s called
survivor mission. The idea that if your
daughter is killed in a drunk driving
accident, the value of that goal — to
reduce drunk driving — is very strong.
The passion part is about valuing
something a lot. Not a little bit, not,
“Oh yeah, on balance I’d rather
have that,” but really valuing it. The
intervention implication of that would
be, how do we help people find their
passion? For most people, I hope, it
doesn’t come through adversity.
But finding something that you truly
value, that’s meaningful to you and
then cultivating that is important. The
important distinction between cultivation
and discovery is that cultivation assumes
that there’s work to do, that loving piano,
for example, isn’t just going to happen to
you, you have to find ways of deepening
And then the third thing is cost. I
think really gritty people, who work
unbelievably hard — and I’m privileged
to work with some of those folks in
psychology, and also in education and
economics — I think they don’t feel the
costs, or put a high value on the cost,
of working really hard. There’s also the
issue of opportunity costs. That really
fascinates me. Really gritty people are
not constantly worried about what they
could be doing instead. They’re not
thinking, “Oh, if I wasn’t a journalist,
I could be a management consultant.
If I wasn’t a management consultant,
I could be in medical school.” It’s a
willingness to focus on where you are,
and not constantly second guess the
choices you’ve made.
So those are the three things that I
think we need to cultivate.
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