True grit

Published in Eastern Visayas Journal on August 6, 2021

The whole country is celebrating the success of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz who made Philippine history by winning the country’s first ever gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I had goosebumps watching the video clip of her third lift attempt that clinched her victory.

Her incredible accomplishment at the Tokyo Olympics was the result of all the hardships and sacrifices she made in order to achieve her lifelong dream. It was not an easy road to sports immortality for Ms. Diaz. Yes, she had the talent that won her the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics but she had something more than ability that won her the gold medal this time around. She conquered her humble beginnings and gave her family a better life while staying committed to the rigorous training schedule, came home empty handed in two previous Olympic participations, dealt with the lack of funding for training and the red tagging, and disproved the doubts of people around her. She could have finished her Olympic career with the silver medal but she continued to stay, hungry for more. She has the true grit of a champion.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania defined grit as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” Beauty queen Pia Wurtzbach also exhibited grit when she joined Binibining Pilipinas twice before finally bagging the top title on her third try and made history as the third Miss Universe of the country. Grit is what makes us focus on the small and big goals in our lives despite setbacks and life events. It is using the power of defeat and barriers to be better and become stronger. Do you want to find out if you have grit? Take psychologist Angela Duckworth’s free Grit Scale test online to determine what’s your score against American adults in a recent study. Can we teach grit in our students or learn it ourselves? Yes, we can and we should.

Dr. Duckworth’s studies showed that grit matters more to a student’s success than ability, intelligence, and grades. She found that grit is a stable predictor of adult success. She discovered that spelling bee champions were not smarter than the other competitors, but they worked harder and longer. Some children are instinctively grittier but educators can design the learning environment so that all students develop grit through perseverance, work ethic, and a growth mindset. Dr. Jennifer Bashant conducted a study on how to develop grit in our students and referenced a 2014 study where schools explicitly taught grit and growth mindset through teacher modeling, use of a common terminology, and the acknowledgment that students are in control of their character development. Students were also given opportunities to question authority and engage in social issues in the community.

As adults, we can take on a new challenge or make a new goal and adjust strategies when faced with problems but never the goal. Find a mentor who can give advice, or a person who inspires you with his or her success. It is never too late to develop grit. Hidilyn Diaz and Pia Wurtzbach showed us we can achieve our dreams if we put our minds and hearts to it.

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