Distracted by Talent

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How often do you hear someone say, “But I’m not naturally gifted…” or “If I only had more natural athletic ability, working out would be easier for me…”? It is easy to be discouraged when we see others in the gym or at our office that seem to have a God-given skill that we don’t possess. So my question is “How much does your innate ability or talent determine your success in life?

According to psychologist Angela Duckworth, the answer to the aforementioned question is — not much. In her groundbreaking book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance”, Duckworth argues that effort, not talent, is more important in predicting the success or failure in most of life’s endeavors. She studied thousands of West Point students to try to predict which cadets would succeed based on various metrics — I.Q., test scores, athletic ability and other qualities that school administrators had used for many years to predict which students would matriculate at the top of their class. The results: the best determinant of a candidate’s success was the amount of “grit” that they possessed.

Passion and perseverance will beat natural ability. So that is good news for those of us that cannot bench 300 lbs or run a 5 minute mile, right? Yes and no. There are obvious limits to what grit can do for you — just as trees do not grow to the sky, I will never beat Michael Phelps in the 100 Meter Butterfly no matter how much time I spend swimming laps at East End Pool. However, we can improve if we choose to put in the effort. And for those of us that are not “gritty”, Duckworth offers some encouraging advice:

“On your own, you can grow your grit from the inside out: You can cultivate your interests. You can develop a habit of daily challenge-exceeding-skill practice. You can connect your work to a purpose beyond yourself. And you can learn to hope when all seems lost. You can also grow your grit from the outside in: Parents, coaches, teachers, bosses, mentors, friends — developing your personal grit depends critically on other people.”

So the next time you start to doubt yourself, instead of getting discouraged, get gritty.–Submitted by: Personal Trainer Jeff Bryk, FITT-RX

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