### TL;DR *Other than talent and opportunity, what makes some pe...
Angela Duckworth is a professor of psychology at the University of ...
James Gross is a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. ...
You can find another interesting paper about this topic annotated o...
> ### grit *passion for and perseverance toward especially long-t...
What are "ego strength, effortful control, and the big five conscie...
### Grit (*passion*) Grit is a novel concept related to passion...
### Self-control (*resisting temptations*) Self-control refers...
The authors propose the hierarchical goal framework in order to **i...
> ***The alternative to exercising self-control is indulging in an ...
Current Directions in Psychological
Science
1 –7
© The Author(s) 2014
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DOI: 10.1177/0963721414541462
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Why are some people more successful than others? One
obvious answer is talent. Another is opportunity. But
even people who have comparable levels of talent and
opportunity often enjoy strikingly different levels of suc-
cess. Applying the scientific method to this age-old ques-
tion has yielded important new insights regarding the
determinants of both everyday success and extraordinary
achievement. What is lacking—and of central interest in
this article—is an integrative framework for understand-
ing the requirements for these two kinds of success.
The idea that the determinants of everyday success
differ from the determinants of extraordinary achieve-
ment goes back to the earliest days of psychology. Galton
(1869/2006) contrasted “self-denial” in the face of “hourly
temptations” with what he considered, other than talent,
to be the essential features of high achievers—namely,
“zeal [and] the capacity for hard labour” (pp. 40–41).
What Galton termed “self-denial” is now referred to as
self-control, which includes both inhibiting strong but
ultimately undesirable impulses and activating weak but
ultimately desirable impulses (Fujita, 2011). Galton’s con-
ception of zeal and the capacity for hard work corre-
sponds to grit, a newer construct defined as passion for
and perseverance toward especially long-term goals
(Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007; see also
Vallerand etal., 2003).
Today, “self-control” and “grit” are sometimes used
interchangeably. However, despite overlap in key under-
lying psychological processes, self-control and grit are not
identical. To understand their similarities and differences,
we employ a hierarchical goal framework that draws on
contemporary goal theories. This integrative perspective
generates several testable predictions and also sharpens
prescriptions for improving success outcomes.
Self-Control: Resisting the Hourly
Temptations
Like Galton, both Freud (1920) and James (1890) specu-
lated that the capacity to regulate attention, emotion, and
behavior was essential to everyday success. Self-control,
541462CDP
XXX10.1177/0963721414541462Duckworth, GrossSelf-Control and Grit
research-article2014
Corresponding Author:
Angela L. Duckworth, Department of Psychology, University of
Pennsylvania, 3701 Market St., Suite 215, Philadelphia, PA 19104
E-mail: duckwort@sas.upenn.edu
Self-Control and Grit: Related but
Separable Determinants of Success
Angela Duckworth
1
and James J. Gross
2
1
University of Pennsylvania and
2
Stanford University
Abstract
Other than talent and opportunity, what makes some people more successful than others? One important determinant
of success is self-control—the capacity to regulate attention, emotion, and behavior in the presence of temptation.
A second important determinant of success is grit—the tenacious pursuit of a dominant superordinate goal despite
setbacks. Self-control and grit are strongly correlated, but not perfectly so. This means that some people with high
levels of self-control capably handle temptations but do not consistently pursue a dominant goal. Likewise, some
exceptional achievers are prodigiously gritty but succumb to temptations in domains other than their chosen life
passion. Understanding how goals are hierarchically organized clarifies how self-control and grit are related but
distinct: Self-control entails aligning actions with any valued goal despite momentarily more-alluring alternatives; grit,
in contrast, entails having and working assiduously toward a single challenging superordinate goal through thick and
thin, on a timescale of years or even decades. Although both self-control and grit entail aligning actions with intentions,
they operate in different ways and over different timescales. This hierarchical goal framework suggests novel directions
for basic and applied research on success.
Keywords
self-control, grit, volition, motivation, achievement
2 Duckworth, Gross
like the related constructs of ego strength, effortful con-
trol, and Big Five conscientiousness, is associated with
positive life outcomes (de Ridder, Lensvelt-Mulders,
Finkenauer, Stok, & Baumeister, 2012; Hofmann, Fisher,
Luhmann, Vohs, & Baumeister, 2014; Roberts, Jackson,
Fayard, Edmonds, & Meints, 2009). Prospective longitudi-
nal studies have confirmed that higher levels of self-
control earlier in life predict later academic achievement
and attainment (Duckworth & Carlson, 2013; Mischel,
2014), prosocial behavior (Eisenberg etal., 2009), employ-
ment, earnings, savings, and physical health (Moffitt
et al., 2011). In fact, self-control predicts many conse-
quential outcomes at least as well as either general intel-
ligence or socioeconomic status (Duckworth & Seligman,
2005; Moffitt etal., 2011).
The psychological processes that underlie self-control,
once so shrouded in mystery that they were summarily
referred to as “willpower, are now coming into focus
(Mischel, 2014). It is now understood that self-control is
required when there is a conflict between two possible
action tendencies (i.e., impulses)—one corresponding to
a momentarily alluring goal and the other corresponding
to a more valued goal whose benefits are deferred in
time, more abstract, or otherwise more psychologically
distant (Maglio, Trope, & Liberman, 2013). Regardless of
the particular type of impulses requiring adjudication
(e.g., gobbling up one sweet and chewy marshmallow
immediately vs. waiting for two; watching television vs.
going to the gym), it seems that common prefrontal brain
areas are involved in successful top-down regulation
(Cohen & Lieberman, 2010; Heatherton & Wagner, 2011).
In addition to directly modulating bottom-up impulses,
both children and adults are capable of deploying an
array of cognitive and behavioral strategies seconds, min-
utes, or even hours in advance of confronting tempta-
tions (Duckworth, Gendler, & Gross, 2014; Magen &
Gross, 2010). In general, the capacity to exercise self-
control appears to improve from infancy through adult-
hood, in parallel with the maturation of prefrontal brain
areas and metacognitive sophistication.
Grit: Passion and Effort Sustained
Over Years
A newer literature has begun to explore the consequences
of pursuing a passionate interest with determination and
effort over the course of years. Grit and related constructs
are associated with lifetime educational attainment
(Duckworth & Quinn, 2009) and professional success
(Baum & Locke, 2004; Locke & Latham, 2013; Vallerand,
Houlfort, & Forest, 2014; Wrzesniewski, 2012). Prospective
longitudinal studies have shown that grit predicts the com-
pletion of challenging goals despite obstacles and set-
backs. For instance, grittier high school juniors in Chicago
public schools are more likely to graduate on time 1 year
later (Eskreis-Winkler, Duckworth, Shulman, & Beale,
2014). Grittier cadets are more likely than their less gritty
peers to make it through the first arduous summer at West
Point (Duckworth etal., 2007; Duckworth & Quinn, 2009).
Grittier novice teachers are more likely to stay in teaching,
and among the teachers who do stay, those who are grit-
tier are more effective (Duckworth & Quinn, 2009;
Robertson-Kraft & Duckworth, 2014).
Research on grit is still in its infancy, and much remains
to be discovered about its underlying psychological
mechanisms. One study has shown that in the National
Spelling Bee, grittier competitors accumulate more hours
of deliberate practice over the course of years, which in
turn fully mediates the effect of grit on final ranking
(Duckworth, Kirby, Tsukayama, Berstein, & Ericsson,
2011). Related research has identified harmonious pas-
sion (i.e., autonomous internalization of a passionate
activity into one’s identity) as a predictor of deliberate
practice and, in turn, performance (Vallerand etal., 2014).
Many other studies of expert performers in diverse
domains have found that thousands of hours of extremely
effortful deliberate practice are prerequisite for achieving
world-class levels of skill (Ericsson & Charness, 1994). If,
as Woody Allen has suggested, showing up is crucial to
success in any endeavor (as quoted in Safire, 1989), and
if highly effortful, focused practice is a necessary means
to improving in skill, then it may be that grit predicts high
achievement by inclining individuals to both show up
and work very hard, continuously, toward a highly valued
goal for years and even decades.
A Hierarchical Goal Framework
It is perhaps no wonder that self-control and grit are
often used interchangeably by laypeople and scientists
alike. These two determinants of success are highly cor-
related (e.g., rs > .6 in Duckworth etal., 2007), and both
predict success outcomes over and above intelligence
(Duckworth etal., 2007; Duckworth & Seligman, 2005;
Moffitt etal., 2011). However, some paragons of self-con-
trol lead undistinguished lives devoid of a focused life-
long passion, and some gritty and exceptionally successful
people are famously undisciplined in life domains other
than their chosen passion. Mounting evidence supports
this distinction: Domain-general measures of self-control
are generally more predictive of everyday measures of
adaptive functioning (e.g., grades, physical health) than
are domain-general measures of grit (Duckworth, 2014).
Grit, on the other hand, predicts retention at West Point
and performance in the National Spelling Bee when con-
trolling for self-control, but self-control does not predict
these outcomes when controlling for grit (Duckworth
etal., 2007).
Self-Control and Grit 3
How are self-control and grit similar, and how are they
different? We propose that both their similarities and their
differences can be understood within a hierarchical goal
framework (see Fig. 1). Following prominent motiva-
tional accounts (Carver & Scheier, 1998; Emmons, 1986;
Fujita, Trope, Liberman, & Levin-Sagi, 2006; Kruglanski
etal., 2002; Vallacher & Wegner, 1987), we assume that
goals are typically organized hierarchically, with lower-
order goals serving higher-order goals. Lower-order goals
are more numerous, context specific, short-term, and
substitutable, whereas higher-order goals are typically
fewer in number, more abstract, more enduring, and
more important to the individual. At any level in the goal
hierarchy, goals are more likely to be activated if they are
appraised as feasible and desirable (Atkinson, 1964).
Individuals can have not only multiple goals but also
multiple goal hierarchies; this multiplicity of motives can
lead to conflicts.
Within this framework, self-control refers to the suc-
cessful resolution of a conflict between two action
impulses—one that corresponds to a goal that is more
valued in the moment, and another that corresponds to a
goal that is of a greater enduring value (see Fig. 2). For
example, Monday morning may find the first author torn
between editing the method section of her graduate stu-
dent’s manuscript or, alternatively, checking Us Weekly for
the latest Hollywood gossip. The former action is more
valuable in the long run, advancing the goals of support-
ing her student’s development and of publishing empiri-
cal studies. In contrast, the rival action is momentarily
more alluring—guaranteed to be effortless and amusing—
but alas, in the long run, less valuable insofar as it merely
advances the goal of having fun. So, whether by modu-
lating her action tendencies in the heat of the moment or,
preferably, by deploying cognitive and behavioral self-
control strategies earlier in time (Hofmann & Kotabe,
2012; Magen & Gross, 2010; Mischel, 2014), the first
author hopes to exercise self-control and choose the
manuscript over the tabloid, as depicted in Figure 2.
In the same framework, grit entails having a dominant
superordinate goal (e.g., producing useful new insights
into the psychological determinants of success) and tena-
ciously working toward it in the face of obstacles and
setbacks, often for years or decades. This superordinate
goal sits at the top of a well-organized goal hierarchy in
which lower-order goals are tightly aligned with the
Goal
Goal Goal Goal
GoalGoalGoal GoalGoal Goal
Action Action Action Action Action Action Action
Fig. 1. Hierarchical goal framework. Goals are typically organized hierarchically, with fewer high-level
goals and more numerous low-level goals; the latter are associated with action tendencies, here broadly
construed to include attention, emotion, and behavior.
Rival Goal of
Momentarily Higher
Value
Enduringly
Valued Goal
Conflict
Fig. 2. Schematic showing how self-control is required to adjudicate
between conflicting actions, one of which is aligned with an enduringly
valued goal and another of which—although temporarily stronger—is
aligned with a less enduringly valued goal. Self-control may consist
in suppressing the momentarily alluring goal or potentiating the more
enduringly valued goal.
4 Duckworth, Gross
superordinate goal, and these lower-order goals in turn
give rise to effective actions that advance the individual
toward the superordinate goal. As shown in Figure 3a,
gritty individuals either are able to actively suppress rival
superordinate goals or, consistent with descriptions of
eminently productive individuals (Cox, 1926; Galton,
1869/2006), lack competing superordinate goals alto-
gether. Figure 3b illustrates how this superordinate goal
impels gritty individuals, when faced with setbacks, to
find a way forward by “sprouting” new lower-order goals
(or actions) when a current lower-order goal (or action)
is blocked. For instance, if a grant proposal or manuscript
is rejected, tears may be shed, but soon enough another
funder or journal outlet is identified and pursued. In
other words, in a gritty individual’s domain of passionate
interest, goals or actions deemed unfeasible are met with
the response of an active search for—or even invention
of—viable alternatives.
Viewed in this light, it is evident that self-control and
grit both involve the defense of valued goals in the face of
adversity. Where they principally differ is in the types of
goals that are being defended, the nature of the “enemy,
and the timescale that is involved. Self-control is required
to adjudicate between lower-level goals entailing neces-
sarily conflicting actions. One cannot eat one’s cake and
have it later, too. In contrast, grit entails maintaining alle-
giance to a highest-level goal over long stretches of time
and in the face of disappointments and setbacks. The
alternative to exercising self-control is indulging in an
action that immediately satisfies a goal but is soon regret-
ted. The alternative to grit is following a series of different
superordinate goals in rapid succession (law school one
month and medical school the next) or giving up on a
superordinate goal because the means to the end of that
goal have been blocked. It follows that self-control is
more tightly coupled with everyday success, whereas grit
a
b
Rival Superordinate GoalPassion
Novel Goal Generated in
Response to Setback
Fig. 3. Schematics illustrating processes underlying grit. Grit entails having a dominant superordinate goal, pursued with passion and perseverance,
often over years or decades. The goal hierarchy that corresponds to an individual’s chosen passion may require the suppression of rival super-
ordinate goals (a). When a particular lower-order goal or action is blocked, new goals or actions are generated and then pursued with vigor (b).
Self-Control and Grit 5
is more tightly coupled with exceptional achievements
that often take decades—or even an entire lifetime—to
accomplish.
Directions for Future Research
Self-control and grit have attracted increased interest in
recent years, in no small part because they seem more
amenable to intervention than other determinants of suc-
cess such as cognitive ability and socioeconomic status
(Heckman, Humphries, & Kautz, 2014). We are optimistic
that a better understanding of the psychological pro-
cesses underlying self-control and grit could, in fact, lead
to high-impact, cost-effective interventions (Walton,
2014). However, research efforts targeting self-control,
grit, and related constructs have thus far been fraction-
ated. The hierarchical goal framework proposed here
may provide a useful centripetal force, encouraging syn-
thesis of empirical findings across diverse but conceptu-
ally relevant literatures. Our hope is that this framework
will also be generative, suggesting new directions for
both basic and intervention-focused research.
From a basic-research perspective, a number of crucial
research questions come into sharp relief in the context
of this framework. For example, what are the characteris-
tics of individuals who have high versus low levels of
self-control or grit, both in terms of the types of goals
they hold (Dweck & Leggett, 1988) and in terms of the
processes they engage in to defend these goals against
challenges (Fishbach, Dhar, & Zhang, 2006)? Given that
higher-level goals tend to be more approach oriented
than lower-level goals (Elliot, 2006; Robinson & Moeller,
2014), do individuals who exemplify grit but not self-
control have stronger approach-motivation systems, and
do individuals who exemplify self-control but not grit
have stronger avoidance systems? What are the main and
interactive effects of self-control and grit with respect to
specific success outcomes? It seems likely that there may
be synergistic effects: High levels of both self-control and
grit may lead to greater success than either alone.
With respect to interventions, the proposed frame-
work implies that self-control is a skill or capacity, which,
like other skills and capacities, might be improved with
training and practice (Diamond, 2012; Mischel, 2014;
Oettingen, 2012). Grit, in contrast, is as much about moti-
vation as volition (Achtziger & Gollwitzer, 2008).
Prospective longitudinal studies beginning in childhood
and extending across the life course are needed to exam-
ine how individuals develop superordinate goals of such
compelling personal significance that that they inspire
lifelong allegiance despite innumerable alternative pur-
suits and inevitable mistakes, failures, and other obsta-
cles. Very generally, we assume that commitment to a
superordinate goal is a function of that goal’s feasibility
and desirability, and thus that the diverse psychological
antecedents to such valuations (e.g., growth mindset,
optimism, attribution style, locus of control, counterfac-
tual style, core self-evaluation, intrinsic motivation, inter-
est, approaches to happiness) are logical targets for
intervention and inquiry.
Conclusion
Much of human behavior is goal-directed (Locke &
Latham, 2013). Research on self-control has illuminated
the importance—and inherent difficulty—of aligning
actions with valued goals when momentarily more
rewarding actions become available. Separate research
on grit has suggested that individuals differ in their pur-
suit of superordinate goals of enduring significance. A
hierarchical-goal perspective on self-control and grit
advances the understanding of the related but distinct
psychological mechanisms that underlie these two key
determinants of success. As James (1907) intimated,
research on this general topic is not only theoretically
interesting but also relevant “to practical issues superior
in importance to anything we know” (p. 332).
Recommended Reading
Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R.
(2007). (See References). A representative study that illus-
trates original research about grit.
Kruglanski, A. W., Shah, J. Y., Fishbach, A., Friedman, R., Chun,
W. Y., & Sleeth-Keppler, D. (2002). (See References). A com-
prehensive review of how goals are organized hierarchically.
Moffitt, T., Poulton, R., & Caspi, A. (2013). Lifelong impact of
early self-control: Childhood self-discipline predicts adult
quality of life. American Scientist, 101, 352–359. A clearly
written and user-friendly overview of self-control and its
consequences.
Acknowledgments
We would like to thank Nir Halevy and Lauren Eskreis-Winkler
for their helpful comments on this article.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest with
respect to their authorship or the publication of this article.
Funding
This research was supported by a K01 Mentored Research
Scientist Development Award (K01-AG033182) from the
National Institute on Aging.
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Discussion

### TL;DR *Other than talent and opportunity, what makes some people more successful than others? Applying the scientific method to this age-old question has yielded important new insights regarding the determinants of both everyday success and extraordinary achievement.* In this paper the authors propose two important determinants of both everyday success and extraordinary achievement: ***self-control*** and ***grit***. ***Self-control*** refers to our capacity to regulate attention, emotion, and behavior in the presence of temptation whereas ***Grit*** refers to our tenacious pursuit of a dominant long-term goal despite setbacks. Self-control is associated with everyday success, whereas grit is more tightly coupled with exceptional achievements that often take decades to accomplish. >***research on this general topic is not only theoretically interesting but also relevant “to practical issues superior in importance to anything we know”*** James Gross is a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. James earned his PhD in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. He currently directs the Stanford Psychophysiology Laboratory and his research focuses on emotion regulation. Learn more about James Gross here: [James Gross, PhD ](https://spl.stanford.edu/james-gross-phd-0) ![james](https://spl.stanford.edu/sites/g/files/sbiybj9361/f/styles/large-scaled/public/james_gross_0.jpg?itok=XjbhjL6V) > ### grit *passion for and perseverance toward especially long-term goals* You can find another interesting paper about this topic annotated on the Fermat's Library: [The Mundanity of Excellence: An Ethnographic Report on Stratification and Olympic Swimmers](https://fermatslibrary.com/s/the-mundanity-of-excellence-an-ethnographic-report-on-stratification-and-olympic-swimmers) ### Self-control (*resisting temptations*) Self-control refers to our capacity to regulate attention, emotion, and behavior. We exert self-control when we are faced with two possible choices: - one corresponding to a instantaneous alluring goal - the other corresponding to a more valued long term goal whose benefits are deferred in time Self-control seems to be regulated by the pre-frontal cortex and our the capacity to exercise self-control appears to improve as we age with the maturation of our pre-frontal cortex. Self-control is associated with life outcomes at least as well as either general intelligence or socioeconomic status. The authors propose the hierarchical goal framework in order to **illustrate the similarities and the differences between self-control and grit.** Goals are presented as hierarchically organized where a higher order goal can be subdivided into multiple lower order goals. Higher level goals are longer term, more abstract wheres lower order goals are numerous short-term and context specific. In this framework self-control refers to the successful resolution of a conflict between two action impulses between two different lower level goals and grit entails having a dominant higher level goal and working toward it in the face of adversity. > ***The alternative to exercising self-control is indulging in an action that immediately satisfies a goal but is soon regret- ted. The alternative to grit is following a series of different superordinate goals in rapid succession (law school one month and medical school the next) or giving up on a superordinate goal because the means to the end of that goal have been blocked. *** Angela Duckworth is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2013. She founded Character Lab, a nonprofit whose mission is to advance scientific insights that help children thrive. She is a #1 New York Times best seller thanks to her book "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance". Learn more about Angela Duckworth here: [Angela Duckworth](https://angeladuckworth.com/) ![angela](https://angeladuckworth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/New-photo-of-Angela-in-color.jpg) What are "ego strength, effortful control, and the big five conscientiousness"? ### Grit (*passion*) Grit is a novel concept related to passion and determination in long term goals. It refers to our ability to pursue an activity/interest/objective with determination over the span of years. Grit is what allows you to be proactive and work towards the completion challenging goals and to persevera through the obstacles and setbacks you encounter. > ***"grit predicts high achievement by inclining individuals to both show up and work very hard, continuously, toward a highly valued goal for years and even decades"*** angela duckworth ted grit [![ted](https://www.deboerfellowship.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Screen-Shot-2020-12-16-at-10.58.16.png)](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H14bBuluwB8) Grit: the power of passion and perseverance