About The Thrivapy Blog

I created The Thrivapy Blog to share my thoughts and ideas about living a learning lifestyle.

For more, visit my website: www.thrivapy.com
Thank You,
Dr. Troy P. Roddy

Monday, September 30, 2013

Grit and The Proximity of Rewards

Grit, resilience, stick-to-it-ness, etc.

When it comes to success, this is the one quality that seems to always be present. The problem is that there doesn't appear to be a method for building grit levels in people. As someone who works with students, grit's role in success and the potential discoveries surrounding how to support the development of grit is very interesting and important.

The TED talk below by Angela Duckworth (linked here) is helpful for understanding how grit is related to success. However, building grit is still not well understood. In the talk, Angela speaks of the potential connection between grit and growth mindsets. I, too, believe a connection exists there, but I suspect another factor may also be involved.

I call it the proximity of reward.

Proximity of reward simply means the distance between action and reward for any particular item. My suspicion is that the larger the distance, the more grit is needed to be successful. For example, a person with a goal of losing 30 pounds in 6 months will need more grit to stay on their diet and exercise routine than a person whose goal is to lose 5 pounds in 1 month. In other words, by breaking down the goal into one with a closer proximity of reward, the grit needed to stay on track is lessened.

This does not mean one should not have long term goals. What is does mean is what many people do all the time. They break a difficult goals down into manageable parts. The use of grit to attain a difficult goal is no exception. Breaking  down the goal into smaller parts helps lessen the grit factor while building an appreciation and habit of resilience.

For students, the same concept applies. If one estimates the need to spend 4 to 6 hours to complete a project, trying to do it all at once will require much more grit than if one breaks that down into 4 to 6 one hour sessions. This highlights a couple of Thrivapy suggestions: using an estimated time for completion and breaking down unfamiliar or difficult tasks into smaller specific pieces.

Over time, using an estimated time for completion while keeping the proximity of rewards in mind can work to build an appreciation for grit and a connection between grit and success in the mind of the student. When you pair that with a growth mindset, there may be potential to develop a "habit of grit" with which a student takes with every challenge.