When I lived in London, my morning jog would take me through our neighborhood and into a beautifully named park called Primrose Hill. Unfortunately, you couldn’t get through this park without going up a hill that I would call anything but beautiful. Many mornings, I’d want to alter my route, just so I could bypass that blasted hill. 

The slope was steep enough that I’d find myself taking it head down: breathing hard, willing my feet to move forward. There was a strong sense of satisfaction at the top, but that always proved short lived because the hill was right there again, waiting for me the next day. And the next. And the next.

Many times, school can seem like an exercise in determination: an uphill climb where many times you can’t see much more than a few feet in front of you.

There has been a lot of research into what people are calling “the science of success” and the search for its key ingredients.  Angela Duckworth, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, thinks she’s found the answer: GRIT.

Not grit, as in dirt. Not grits, one of my newly discovered favorites here in the south. Grit, as in hard work. Grit is a mindset that successful people have when confronted with adversity.

How do you know if you’ve got grit? Duckworth defines grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. It is a special form of self-control that she says is a better predictor of grades than IQ.

And she’s developed a test to let you know if you’ve got what it takes. Would you respond in the affirmative to these statements?

  • I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge.
  • I am a hard worker.
  • I finish whatever I begin.
  • I am diligent.

Or, the negative to these statements?

  • I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one.
  • I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete.
  • I think achievement is overrated.

One of the biggest goals in school is to help students establish the habits of mind necessary for success in college and in life. This takes time and practice, and as such we push, encourage, scold, and celebrate.

When I would finally get to the top of Primrose Hill, I was rewarded with a magnificent view of central London. The sun was rising, and the morning was full of the promise of a new day. As I learn my jogging routes here in the Research Triangle, I’ve found a new hill on the trails in the North Carolina Museum of Art, a killer of a climb out of the park towards Blue Ridge Road.

These hills are never easy, but I have to say they do get easier. And because of them, I find myself strong enough to brave new and more challenging trails in the future.