Angela Lee Duckworth has a great TED talk on grit. Obviously I’m not talking about how gritty sandpaper is. This is grit as a personality trait. In short, the best way to predict how successful someone will be at something, be it a spelling bee, or graduating from college, is not IQ, or SAT scores, but how well that person perseveres when things go wrong. It’s determination.
People will be naturally ‘grittier’ about something they have an interest in. I love science, so I worked harder at science. And you can’t just make someone be interested in something that they aren’t. But you don’t have to be interested in a topic to have grit. It’s a mindset. And it can be cultivated.
A great way to help increase grit is to set reasonable goals. Saying “I’m going to get 100% on this test” may not be reasonable. Instead, say “I’m going to do better this time than last time”, or “I’m going to get 5% better on this quiz than the last one”. As you achieve these smaller steps, you feel better about yourself and become more confident.
But what if you don’t make it? What if you set reasonable goals and still fail? Well, failure is a part of life. This is where determination is important. Find out why you failed. Talk to you teacher or coach. Go over the reasons. Make a plan on how to succeed. The important thing is to not give up. Make a conscious decision to do it, and if you fail, think “well, that could have gone better. What do I need to do to succeed?”. And then follow through and do it.
As you learn new things, you are creating more connections between brain cells. If you don’t keep trying, these connections will be trimmed away later on. This is why practice and repetition is so important. Each time you practice something, you’re strengthening the connections, and it will be easier to do in the future. This is why athletes practice so much. This is why your math teacher assigns so many homework problems.
And this is why you should review things more often.
It doesn’t matter if the test is next week. Review your notes today. What did you do in class today? Do you understand it? If not, what questions do you have? Write them down, and ask the teacher. Are the notes coherent? If not, rewrite them so you’ll be able to understand them in a few days.
As you review your notes each day, you’re making it easier to understand and remember. Yes, this isn’t a homework assignment that your teacher gave you. But it is part of being a student, or at least a student who is determined to do well.
Winners are losers who got up and gave it just one more try
Dennis DeYoung, Don’t Wait for Heroes