Why grit is the best indicator for success

Growing up, I always believed that attaining higher education and possessing an above-average IQ were strong indicators of success. I believed that a class schedule full of AP classes would lead to a top-rated university, which in turn would lead to a life of prosperity and achievement. Study hard, work hard and all of your dreams will come true.

The reality is that's not always the case.

While it's true that some people with fancy degrees go on to live highly successful lives, I have a strong suspicion that there is more to their success than outward accolades. According to Angela Duckworth, author of the best-selling book, "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance," the best indicator of future earnings and happiness has nothing to do with book smarts, talent or a high IQ. The most important factor that can help someone live a life of happiness and success is grit.

What is grit?

Duckworth describes grit as a passion and perseverance for attaining long-term goals and actually following through on them. Those with grit are often described as having a strong sense of character and possessing a resilience that helps them bounce back from tough situations.

You don't learn how to bounce back from tough situations in school. Dealing with the dark side of life is not on any syllabus or curriculum when paving your way into adulthood. However, I believe that it's a crucial characteristic to cultivate, even from a young age.

I don't know what the future will hold for my children. Perhaps my daughter will want to become a doctor or a painter. Maybe my son will study to be a fashion designer or an architect. What I do know for sure is that no matter how far they rise, life is going to inevitably knock them down.

No matter how hard they work, how good of people they become or how much they care for themselves or others, life will throw them obstacles that may seem impossible to overcome.

It happens to all of us. It's happened to me multiple times.

And when life knocks me down, I have a tendency to let it keep me there. I succumb to negativity and the belief that my setbacks are a place of residence, not reference. Often times, I forget that I'm the author of my own life and I can proactively write my chapters any way I choose.

So, I want to hand each of my children their own pen and paper and remind them to be proactive in life, not reactive like their mom.

I want to teach them how to rise up when everything around them seems to be falling apart. This, I've learned through my many decades of life, is the key ingredient to happiness and success. Possessing emotional stamina that will constructively guide you through all of life's ups and downs will get you farther in life than you can ever imagine.

- This column was first published on Nov. 12, 2021. Gabriela Garcia of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].