In a classic experiment conducted at Stanford University in the 60’s, the experimenter placed a marshmallow in front of 4 year olds and told them they were leaving the room for 15 minutes, and that if the marshmallow was still there when they returned, they could have 2 marshmallows. Only about a third of the children were able to resist the temptation to eat the marshmallow immediately. It’s seen as a test of delayed gratification.
In follow up studies 2 decades later, every one of the children who were able to refrain from eating the marshmallows till the experimenter returned, had achieved academic success, higher incomes and high levels of self-esteem. Some of those who had not refrained from eating the marshmallow had also been successful, but most had not. For years companies used ‘intelligence’ as a predictor of success. Success has different meanings to each of us, but if we say it’s goal achievement, then we now know that ‘intelligence’ is not the best predictor. In fact it’s been shown that there’s a slightly negative correlation between intelligence and success.
Recent research has shown that ‘grit’ is the best predictor of success. Sometimes defined as ‘perseverance and passion for long term goals’, grit has been shown to be strongly correlated to a major personality factor, conscientiousness. Delayed gratification for a greater ultimate reward is a fundamental element of grit.
Throughout history it seems that people who have succeeded in different walks of life had grit. So where did they get it? Research indicates that people with high levels of grit are passionately committed to a future goal. Robert the Bruce, Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt spring to mind. Having a passionate commitment to long term goals makes it possible to overcome life’s challenges and setbacks.
A good career plan embodies passionately held long term goals.