Accomplishing Long Term Goals


Michael Phelps (small)By Rick Bishop//USA Swimming National Team Staff

Why do some individuals accomplish more than others?


Dr. Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania Psychology Department and colleagues identified a personality trait found among high achievers across several different domains. The term given to the personality trait – grit.


“We define grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.”


Recently, much attention has been given to the concept of the ten year rule for the development of elite performance. Dr. Anders Ericson and Talent Code author Dan Coyle point to ten years of deliberate practice needed for a performer to develop and reach an elite level. With such a great amount of time and effort needed to achieve elite level, grit, perseverance and passion would surely play an integral role in attaining elite performance.


Dr. Duckworth developed a grit scale to measure an individual’s grit. In a study conducted at USMA West Point, the grit scale predicted completion of the rigorous first summer- Beast Barracks - better than the overall West Point Whole Candidate Score.


As we look at the long process of developing an athlete the trait of grit/perseverance should be considered a critical element that contributes to achieving elite performance levels.


For more information on grit or the grit scale contact: Rick Bishop rbishop@usaswimming.org.


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