What Determines Your Success?

The traditional assumption for many students and educators is that educational success is primarily determined by intelligence.  However, many studies have shown its simply not the case.


Why? Because your attitude is a far stronger determinate of your success.  Intelligence without work and perseverance will only take you so far.  I’ve personally seen many highly intelligent learners fall into the trap of never learning how to work hard and stick at something.  Because so much comes easily to them they are often not prepared when challenges do arise.


Last year Angela Duckworth published a brilliant book called ‘Grit’. As a teacher she observed that often the bright kids were failing, and it was the children who had what she called ‘grit’ that succeeded despite having less talent. You can watch her TED talk here below. I’ve also included Carol Dweck who authored ‘Developing a Growth Mindset’. Dweck talks about how a growth mindset (which is the belief that our abilities can be developed) can have a huge impact on our attitude to learning.

Angela even has a Grit test on her website here: https://angeladuckworth.com/grit-scale/. Have a go and see how you rate!


For any student who wants to succeed its worth considering how you can develop this personality trait to improve your ability to persevere even when things aren’t going your way, when you aren’t learning as fast as you want to, when you are struggling to understand something, or when you just need to stick with something.


  • Clearly define your long-term goal.

What is it?

Why do you want it?
What will get get when you achieve it, or who will be helped?Write it down, place it someone you see every day to remind yourself of why you are doing this. Connecting with the higher purpose of what you are doing is important part of developing perseverance.


  • Whatever you are doing keep doing it!

Sounds obvious right? But so many people give up before they reach their goals. I’ve always found it helps to remember that on average a baby will fall over 2000 times before they learn to walk. 2000 times! Are you prepared to fail 2000 times to get to your goal?So stick with it.. Practice, practice again, practice some more.Maybe let yourself off the hook of perfection and give yourself a certain number of times you are prepared to get it wrong before you get it right.


  • Have a plan for when things get tough.

Face it, at some point you will fail. What’s your plan to get through this? Is there someone who can be your cheer squad, that special person who will always help you get back on track? Start a log of successes, pick it up when you’re feeling like giving up. This will give you a tangible way of refocusing on what you’ve achieved and what has gone right.


  • Focus on developing a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset (read Carol Dweck).

A growth mindset is a belief that abilities can be developed, while a fixed mindset believes they are pre-determined. Growth mindset is backed by neuroscience which shows that the more we do something the stronger the neural connections in our brain are, and the better we get at it, which goes to show that practice, practice, practice is right.


Below are some suggested reading (the links to fishpond.com.au):

Why passion and resilience are the secrets to success
By Angela Duckworth


The New Psychology of Success
By Carol S. Dweck