We all know intelligence matters. No one is going to say that it doesn’t.
A quick look at the 30 smartest people alive today makes that clear. Their accomplishments speak for themselves.
But there are plenty of accomplished people who aren’t on the Mensa list. Steve Jobs isn’t on the list. The Dalai Lama isn’t on the list. Oprah Winfrey, Nelson Mandela, Steven Spielberg… the list could go on and on.
There are people who have defied odds, broken records, transformed nations and put a dent in the universe who aren’t on the brainy list. What’s their secret? Does it have anything to do with willpower?
The answer from science is an emphatic yes!
How Students Succeed with Willpower
“There are two qualities that correlate with success,” says NY Times journalist John Tierney. “One is intelligence and the other is self-control.” Tierney and social psychologist Roy Baumeister co-authored Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. The book is packed with research and lessons on how you can use resolve to reach your goals.
In one experiment, researchers Tangney, Baumeister and Boom found that higher scores on self-control tests had a correlation with higher grade point averages, less binge eating and lower rates of alcohol abuse.
In another study published in Psychological Science, students’ level of self-discipline in the fall, predicted final grades in the spring.
According to Baumeister, “although raw intelligence is an obvious advantage, self-control helped students more reliably show up for classes, start homework earlier and spend more time working with less time watching television.”
When researchers compared students’ grades with almost three dozen other personality traits, self-control turned out to be the only trait that predicted a student’s grade point average better than chance.
Using Grit to Achieve Long-Term Goals
In 2006 Drs. Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman found the correlation between self-discipline and achievement was twice as large as the correlation between IQ and achievement.
Duckworth’s research went on to popularize the concept of grit, a quality defined as “sustained interest and persistent effort in the passionate pursuit of long-term goals.”
According to Duckworth, discipline without heart makes you brittle, mechanical and unyielding. Grit is discipline in service of heart and passion.
The field of Positive Psychology explores her findings and others, and examines how they apply to goal-setting, achievement and long-term personal fulfillment.
How might these new discoveries help you and those you love achieve life goals? Want to learn more about grit, resilience and the new science of human flourishing?
What do you think matters more? Have you reached any long-term goals using the power of persistence? Share your story in the comments.