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We’re Teaching Grit the Wrong Way

David DeSteno: Trying to teach “noncognitive” skills like self-control and grit via inherently cognitive mechanisms can set up a vicious cycle of increasing stress, failure, and social isolation. Fortunately, there is a solution. For millennia, what ensured long-term success was cooperation. Strong interpersonal relationships were necessary to thrive. But to be identified as a good partner, a person had to be trustworthy, generous, fair, and diligent. She had to be willing to sacrifice immediate self-interest in order to share with and invest in others. In short, she had to have good character. And what drives such behaviors, emerging research shows, are feelings like gratitude, compassion, and a sense of pride in one’s ability, all of which nudge the mind to accept sacrifices to cooperate with and, thereby, build relationships with others.

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