Determination and long-term goal-setting may be more contributory to success than intelligence, suggests research being conducted by Angela Duckworth and her contemporaries.
These two traits (perseverance and keeping long-term goals in mind) are affectionately called ‘grit’ by researchers in the field and—according to a 2007 paper on the subject (pdf)—play an important role in many academic achievements.
Researchers are quick to point out that grit isn’t simply about the willingness to work hard. Instead, it’s about setting a specific long-term goal and doing whatever it takes until the goal has been reached. It’s always much easier to give up, but people with grit can keep going.
[…] These new scientific studies rely on new techniques for reliably measuring grit in individuals. As a result, they’re able to compare the relative importance of grit, intelligence, and innate talent when it comes to determining lifetime achievement. Although this field of study is only a few years old, it’s already made important progress toward identifying the mental traits that allow some people to accomplish their goals, while others struggle and quit. Grit, it turns out, is an essential (and often overlooked) component of success.
“I’d bet that there isn’t a single highly successful person who hasn’t depended on grit,” says Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who helped pioneer the study of grit. “Nobody is talented enough to not have to work hard, and that’s what grit allows you to do.”
Duckworth created a survey to measure this “narrowly defined trait” (which you can take online), and it was actually found to be a better indicator of success than an IQ score in the 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee.
For more on this topic In Character‘s short interview with Angela Duckworth is worth a read, as is Cal Newport’s excellent take on ‘grit’:
Maintain a small number of things that you return to, and do hard work on, again and again, over a long period of time. Choose things that actually interest you, but don’t obsesses over choosing the perfect things — as perfect goals […] probably don’t exist.