Tuesday, September 9, 2014

When Passion and Perseverance Carry the Day

How do our children grow to become capable, successful young men and women? Angela Duckworth studied successful children and adults across a wide range of schools and careers and says the most significant predictor of success she found is grit. “It’s not good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t I.Q. It was grit,” which she goes on to define as “passion and perseverance…”
Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University, has developed something called a “growth mindset,” which is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, and that it can change with effort.

Children who can see failures as temporary and as learning opportunities will become more successful than those who believe that failures are permanent and can’t be overcome. Developing grit takes a growth mindset.
Paul Tough, the author of “How Children Succeed,” says noncognitive skills, like persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence, are more crucial than sheer brain power to achieving success.
I was reminded of this last summer just before I walked my daughter, McKenzie, down the aisle on her wedding day.
The day dawned with an overcast sky, and the weather app on my iPhone showed a large green expanse heading in from the Pacific and covering the Olympic Mountains to the west. It did not look good for a 5:30 outdoor wedding. McKenzie, now a Seattle native, seemed calm. At 2:30, with chairs and tables already set up, a light rain began to fall. My daughter, looking out the window and getting ready for the big day, seemed unaffected, while her father began a slow panic.
By 4:30, the tables and chairs were beading water, but there was a break in the drizzle and towels were found to wipe everything dry. By 5:15 sunlight was beginning to break through, and I saw my daughter for the first time in her wedding dress. I stood there unable to say a word, fearing I'd become an emotional wreck. Not only was she beautiful, but I was filled with pride at what she had pulled off in planning the day.
As we waited to walk down the aisle, I wanted to say something memorable, but all that came out was an attempt at humor to the effect of, “Hey, let’s skip this and just go get some dinner together.” To which she replied with great calm something to the effect, “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Deal with it, Dad.”  I was a mess, but McKenzie stood radiant, fully present and in control. It was her day, and she was loving every moment of it!
If we want our children to become self-confident and successful, they will need a growth mindset and many successes and failures at solving tough problems. My daughter has developed perseverance and grit by successfully working through many setbacks in school, sports, work and life. We never rushed in to rescue her, but instead helped her to find ways to solve her problems and to know that her successes were hers, not ours.
I have been proud of McKenzie’s successes in school, where her writing and grades carried the day, but on the most important day of her life, she proved that persistence, self-control, self-confidence and grit were all she needed to carry the day.

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