Duckworth terms this 'grit', and you can read more about her very interesting work on the subject at Examined Existence.
Why Are People With Grit Special?
Angela Duckworth found there was no difference in how likely someone was to display tendencies associated with grit depending on gender, SAT scores, family income, or natural talent. All of the factors usually considered to have an impact on success actually had no correlation with how gritty the subjects of the study were, and these subjects ranged from competitors in the National Spelling Bee to kids from an underprivileged inner city school and a military academy.
However, those who possessed the markings of grit – commitment, stamina, focus on long-term goals, and the ability to bounce back and keep going after a setback was far more likely to succeed (success being measured by, for example, graduating from the inner city high school).
Interestingly, there was a slight correlation between grit levels and those perceived as very naturally talented – in many cases, the more talented children actually showed less grit, perhaps because there was less of a sense that they needed to work hard and, therefore, no challenges that forced them to develop grit.
Can Grit Be Taught?
Grit can be something people learn at a very young age if there is something they really want that is hard to achieve, and which they need to work for. The staying power and perseverance that typify gritty people comes as a response to having the confidence that what they want to achieve, no matter how far away it is, is possible with enough work. Children who were taught how the brain works when it comes to learning, and that their ability to learn is not fixed and can be extended with hard work, were shown in Duckworth's study to be more able to take on the kind of commitment needed to tackle a goal in a gritty way.
Hard Work and Dedication
The takeaway from all of this is that kids with grit do better and learn a good mentality for adult life and that this gritty attitude can be cultivated. Teaching kids that success is the reward for hard work and that perseverance will pay off, in the end, is the key, as is supporting them in their long-term goals and ambitions. Highlighting to them the smaller gains along the way will keep their drive to succeed burning.
Of course, this doesn't just apply to kids, so why not set a good example by working to become a grittier person yourself, too!