Salem has an inordinate number of good and hardworking students who succeed as a result of persistent strong efforts. Some people, however, believe success is a result of someone’s luck or fortune. This is hardly the case. It may appear that success stems from natural intellect, musical talent, or athletic ability, but strong research shows that success is a result of the self-control required to avoid powerful distractions and a personal resolve to accomplish something desirable. Successful students don’t let frustration or disappointment dissuade them from achieving their goals. A good number of our kids fit this description.
Dr. Angela Duckworth, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, studies the distinguishing behaviors and characteristics of successful individuals. Her research shows that measures of self-control can be better predictors of success than intelligence or aptitude. This self-control is a likely determiner of success in life and in school. Duckworth named this personal quality “grit”, and she even developed a “grit scale” that takes about ten minutes to complete. Many of our high school students exemplify these traits.
Crystal Napoli, Jonathan Shum, Brittany Wallace, and Amanda Bickford are four Salem High students who exemplify the beneficial relationship between grit and self-control. Crystal balances her school work, membership in the marching band, and several community service projects. She’s a talented harpist who has performed with the Symphony NH Orchestra, the NH Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Boston Ballet. Jonathan is the 2013 state winner of the New Hampshire Trig-Star Competition and finished eighth in the national Richard E. Lomax National Trig-Star competition; that’s eighth in the nation! Recently, both Brittany and Amanda signed letters of intent to play college softball after receiving well-earned scholarships. We see their successes, but we don’t see the untold hours when they toil, often alone, to develop the necessary skills to compete at the next level or to maintain academic grades that earn those scholarships.
Success requires students to avoid distractions that could interfere with practice or study. Persistence in the face of distraction exemplifies the self-control required for meaningful accomplishments of goals.
What’s most exciting about this work is the understanding that individuals can overcome undesirable tendencies and develop self-control and grit. Duckworth and her colleagues are working on developing strategies that can weaken the strength of undesirable tendencies. With continued efforts, parents and teachers will eventually be able to incorporate those strategies in their daily interactions with children to help them develop the self-control, tenacity, perseverance, and grit that will enable all children to experience great success.
Most importantly, we need to work together to be sure our children understand that they can confront and rise above frustration, adversity, and disappointment to realize who they want to become.