Monday, December 19, 2005

Passion and Perseverance Predict Success

Check out this thought-provoking article in Psychology Today suggesting that passion and perseverance, more than 'smarts' are the essential ingredients for success. Martin Seligman ("The Optimistic Child") and Angela Duckworth now have several articles in press (none free access yet) about how good habits of perseverance and self-discipline trounce I.Q.

The results are affirming, but not a complete surprise. The million dollar questions really are: 1. What can we do to improve self-discipline, and 2. How we encourage more students to discover their passion.

Excerpt:"In a series of provocative new studies at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers find that the gritty are more likely to achieve success in school, work and other pursuits -- perhaps because their passion and commitment help them endure the inevitable setbacks that occur in any long-term undertaking. In other words, it's not just talent that matters but also character. "Unless you're a genius, I don't think that you can ever do better than your competitors without a quality like grit," says Martin E. P. Seligman, director of the university's Positive Psychology Center.

Indeed, experts often speak of the "10-year rule" -- that it takes at least a decade of hard work or practice to become highly successful in most endeavors, from managing a hardware store to writing sitcoms -- and the ability to persist in the face of obstacles is almost always an essential ingredient in major achievements. The good news: Perhaps even more than talent, grit can be cultivated and strengthened."

At Cognitive Daily, the Mungers discuss the data in more detail. GPA is a much better correlate with self-discipline measures, than I.Q.

It seems pretty obvious that the status quo in education and the increasing emphasis on testing and NCLB, and not the best routes to excite students about the future. The worry is, we're just growing up more Twixters. From Time Magazine:

"There was a time when people looked forward to taking on the mantle of adulthood. That time is past. Now the current culture trains young people to fear it."

It's not apathy or cynicism, but rather..

"...twixters are looking for a sense of purpose and importance in their work, something that will add meaning to their lives, and many don’t want to rest until they find it. 'They’re not just looking for a job,' Arnett says. 'They want something that’s more like a calling, that’s going to be an expression of their identity.' Hedonistic nomads, the twixters may seem, but there’s a serious core of idealism in them."

In middle and high schools today, some assessment and testing make sense for gauging the effectiveness of teaching and skill mastery, but without taking motivation into the calculation, couldn't we be missing the point?

If we really want these kids to fall in love with something, then we have to give them personal opportunities, time for discovery, and emotional and intellectual support. "Flow" needs to become an Essential Learning Requirement.

By the way, we are reading and enjoying Po Branson's What Should I Do With My Life?. It's not a how-to, or an inspirational read - but rather fairly uncut interviews with people talking about how they came to make major decisions about their lives and careers. It's surprising how long it takes us to realize what we don't like.

"If anything, people too often ignored the strong message of their experience. They failed to embrace it because they believed their calling was to be figured out intellectually...People say they have no idea where to start, but so often, even as they say that, there's some insight waiting for them in the experiences they've already had."

Some food for thought. Heart sometimes wins out over head.

Psychology Today: The Winning Edge
Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ, Abstract only
Lifestylism: Twixters
TIME Magazine: They Just Won't Grow Up

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