Dream big, develop true grit
Are you a big dreamer?
I definitely am. Like some of you in the room, I’m doing a PhD, which is absolutely fascinating but not that rewarding in the short-term. Then, there’s my friend Susana, who’s been studying for 5 years to pass the civil servant exams and become a judge. Or this other friend, Elena, whose lifelong dream is to reach the top of Mt. Everest, and she’s training very hard to achieve it. On the other hand, there are those who only think about going out on Friday nights.
These two kinds of people differ in their level of grit: the personality trait that lets them engage in long term goals despite setbacks. To have grit is to have a passion, a purpose.
In my thesis, I study how our personality, such as having grit, relates to the way we use our cognitive ability, like attention and memory, and how this shapes our brain.
Grit is able to predict academic success (like finishing high school), professional success (like getting the highest positions in a company), and even personal success (like having a long and happy marriage). At this point you may be wondering what it takes to be gritty. Wouldn’t you need to be talented or at least have better cognitive ability? Well, the theory says that you wouldn’t. But, no study to date had proven it with objective methods.
So we did it. In one of our experiments we wanted to see if gritty people have a better memory, as they keep their goal in mind. Better flexibility, as they have to get over a failure and take an alternative pathway towards their goal. Or inhibition, as they need to say no to plans such as going out.
What we found is that they are no better at any of those abilities: No better memory, flexibility, or inhibition. So, what’s the secret? The combination. This makes them less proactive. That means that they don’t lead their actions by their initial thoughts, but they keep their attention open to changes in the environment, and then, with this information make their move.
Then, we examined the brain of those people, and we found that they have a different set up, even at rest.
Our findings are particularly important because grit’s is starting to be taught at schools worldwide and the teaching would be enriched with the incorporation of this cognitive style. Apart from these findings, we’ve also discovered the neurocognitive profiles of other traits, such as impulsiveness or mindfulness, which could help us to design better training programs.
Before I finish the talk I want to emphasize that all those processes are malleable. You are still in time to develop true grit. This will leave an imprint on your brain and on your future.
Para ver la intervención entra aquí (minuto 16): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsdDF53CcFI