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Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn: How knowing when to be lazy could pay off




Researchers at the University of Southern California and Northeastern University in Boston have released a new study that weighs the outcome of grit vs. apathy.
Researchers at the University of Southern California and Northeastern University in Boston have released a new study that weighs the outcome of grit vs. apathy.
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From the time we’re children, most of us are told to work hard and never give up, even in the face of imminent failure.

Perseverance, it would seem, is much sought-after characteristic in a friend, employee, or potential mate. But new data suggests that unrelenting grit and determination might not always work to your advantage.

Researchers at the University of Southern California and Northeastern University in Boston have released a new study that weighs the outcome of grit vs. apathy.

Participants were put through a series of exercises that allowed researchers to measure the level of determination (or lack thereof) with which the participants approached a task. For example, one test was a computer game that had been rigged so that some participants would feel like they were always losing.

Participants with more grit worked harder than their lazier counterparts when winning, but not as hard when they were losing. Another exercise gave participants word scrambles, a few of which were near impossible or impossible to solve. Those who scored higher on the gritty side tried fewer of the anagrams overall, which suggests they didn’t skip over the more difficult ones.

All of this, the researchers say, seems to allude to the idea that grit is good, but it has a downside. Grittier folks will stick with something regardless of what it could cost them in terms of time, money, or overall performance. They say the study isn’t to suggest that we shouldn’t try as hard to solve problems or achieve our goals, but rather that it pays to know when to doggedly pursue something and when to let it go. In other words, pick your battles.

What do you think about the study’s findings? Do you feel like you have a good grasp of when to persevere and when to step back?

Guest:

Gale Lucas, senior research associate at the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California and lead author of the study “When the going gets tough: Grit predicts costly perseverance” (Science Direct, 2015)