What separates those who dream from those who do – those who just make a resolution and those who actually achieve their goal? While a large majority sees IQ scores and innate talent as the main predictors of success, a Harvard alumnus has discovered the common factor that truly unites the accomplished: courage.

Angela Duckworth ’92 describes courage as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.” After graduating from Harvard College, Duckworth became Rosa Lee and Egbert Chang Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and published her 2016 New York Times bestseller “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” Amid a culture that values ​​innate talents, Duckworth constantly wondered how these people achieve so much. In an interview with The Harvard Crimson, the author revealed how to develop courage and perseverance and also how to create a focused goal worth the hard work.

Duckworth’s best-selling writing initially explains the ease of assuming natural talent, as it’s more practical to avoid comparing yourself to someone with seemingly inhuman abilities. His empirical research, however, reveals that highly accomplished people do not possess superhuman skills, but rather an incredible work ethic and a goal-oriented mindset.

His book focuses on interviews with countless paragons of courage – from West Point cadets to national spelling champions – to understand how perseverance and passion directly correlate to success. When studying the West Point cadets, for example, Duckworth measured these high achievers with standard measures of intelligence quotients and physical fitness tests. Of the cadets who eventually graduated from college, Duckworth found that the common factor between them was not intelligence levels or natural athletic abilities, but rather incredible levels of work ethic. She determined that courage is a better predictor of success than traditional measures.

Peppered with personal anecdotes and a relatable voice, Duckworth’s book is an authentic and memorable read. After reading the book and learning the critical connection between work ethic and goal achievement, readers will likely wonder how they too can create a focused goal. It seems that in order for a person to practice courage – an active commitment to working towards a higher goal or purpose – one must first clearly define one’s purpose.

Asked about goal creation, Duckworth reframed this seemingly monumental practice of finding a higher life purpose or calling with a simple, effortless metaphor: “Paramecium is a single-celled organism, one of the most primitive on earth. … And when he encounters an obstacle, he backs up, he changes his angle and tries again.

Instead of immediately limiting himself to a passion for life, Duckworth reminds readers to take a step back and think of themselves as a paramecium, heading towards natural interests with genuine curiosity. Using the metaphor of getting away from the cold, Duckworth also explained that changing his plans for the future is “growth, not lack of courage.”

After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Advanced Neurobiology from Harvard, Duckworth adjusted his original plan to attend medical school. Instead, she chose to earn a doctorate. in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and now takes a less structured approach to goal setting. “An ultimate goal, a high level goal, is like a North Star. It’s super useful and I don’t hesitate to recognize the usefulness of having a goal,” she said.

Duckworth went on to explain how people feel this intense pressure to define a singular passion or “north star” when in reality they should be exploring their many interests and values. Duckworth suggests that everyone ask themselves, “What are your values ​​and where does your spontaneous attention go?”

“I love words. I’m really interested in human nature. One of my values ​​is kindness and another value is excellence,” Duckworth said. “I found something that sits at the intersection of those two interests and those two values.”

At the end of the interview, Duckworth offered some essential tips for staying hopeful and objective in the face of adversity. Much of that advice was rooted in his thinking about the Covid-19 pandemic.

“My recommendation is not just, ‘Hey, be brave!’ “I’m a big believer that pep talks don’t do much for anyone,” she said. “But I think whenever we feel emotions…that desperation that each of us, including me -self, felt, the first thing to do is to notice it. To notice when you feel exhausted, exhausted or hopeless. The next thing to do is to ask yourself in a curious way, almost in the third person, like you’re talking to a close friend, ‘I wonder why?’ What’s going on in life that makes me feel that way?'”

While other self-help books may offer the typical “fake it until you make it” advice, Duckworth recommends deep personal reflection in the face of failure or external challenges. Even in the face of external challenges, Duckworth explains that following this approach allows for “agentic hope” – the belief that “I can do it if I try.”

In a world cluttered with 10-year plans, Duckworth reminds readers that finding purpose and calling is a beautifully messy and often time-consuming process that takes a tremendous amount of patience and trial and error. After reading “Grit,” readers will walk away with a deep sense of agency about their lives and their ability to succeed. With this power comes great responsibility – the responsibility to deal with failure with compassion and to find positivity in redirection.

While her book remains undeniably inspiring, the real inspiration is Duckworth’s personal success in following a set of her interests and passions to create and achieve her goals. Duckworth brings a levity and level of creativity to goal setting, ultimately inspiring more dreamers to do.