Angela Duckworth: She’s Gritty

March 2 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: It’s on the List

When you woke up this morning, what were the first three thoughts that crossed your mind (aside from “I need more sleep!”)? I’m noticing a pattern with my morning thoughts, and I don’t think I’m alone in this. My mind chaotically ricochets from one task I need to accomplish to the next. I need to Google, “How to clean my ice machine.” Also, that major project is due tomorrow. I wonder if I should dye my hair again? No answers rapidly appear because I’m quickly on to the next question. Today, let’s challenge ourselves to a to-do-list test of sorts. With every to-do-list thought that arises in your mind, cognitively complete the task right away. Check it off your mental scroll and take a moment to notice how much lighter you feel.


Part of that inner dialogue that pops up—whether you’re alone in a gas-station bathroom or standing in front of hundreds at a podium—has to do with the hard stuff life has dealt you. It turns out embracing some of your grittier qualities can be helpful in life. Grit, defined as “unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger,” can help us learn better, become more productive and more easily achieve our goals. According to research, grit—which women embody more often than men, by the way—is closely aligned with two other characteristics: self-control and conscientiousness. But when self-control and conscientiousness wane, employing a little determination and grit can get you through some of life’s most difficult circumstances.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Angela Duckworth, Founder and CEO of Character Lab

Today’s Woman to Watch has made it her duty to turn grit into a must-have trait while working to advance the science and practice of character development. Her name is Angela Duckworth, and she’s the founder of the nonprofit Character Lab, which aims to help us all understand how to develop our character strengths and become the people we want to be.

One of Character Lab’s most important tasks involves helping students thrive in school. And since Angela knows scientific research overwhelmingly shows character strengths—including grit—are as important as IQ and socioeconomic status for students to achieve their goals and have a greater sense of well-being, she and her team design helpful classroom tools that enable students to develop character and advance in their education.

For Angela, this passion blossomed when she left a demanding job in management consulting for what she calls an even more demanding job: teaching seventh-grade math. As a teacher, Angela quickly realized intelligence doesn’t necessarily equal top grades. In fact, it was the students who exhibited more grit who often came out on top.

Emboldened by this realization, Angela became a psychologist and started earnestly studying groups of people in challenging settings, from students at West Point Military Academy to participants in the National Spelling Bee to rookie teachers working in demanding environments, all to determine who would be successful and why.

What Angela discovered is that those who had the passion and perseverance to continue trying found more success, and this has since become the founding principle for her work. Her research has culminated in remarkable strides, with her diagnostic Grit Scales helping everyone from schoolchildren to entrepreneurs learn how to better achieve their goals. Essentially in-depth quizzes, the Grit Scales help determine how passionate and persevering a person is, and understanding these results can transform lives.

Angela further explores this idea in her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. As Angela says, success isn’t about simply working harder all the time. It’s about working smartly and consistently on projects that fuel your soul.


Let’s conclude today with a quote from the gritty Angela Duckworth:

“Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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