When three strands of rope are braided together, they create synergy. The strands place mutual levels of influence on one another, making it possible to support more weight with the combined rope, than with three independent strands. But why do we refer to this? Because research by the Intrinsic Institute shows that we can understand human excellence through this analogy.
According to them, there are three groups of non-cognitive skills, which predict success in numerous domains – academic achievement, labor market outcomes, and even leadership success. They are categorized as:
Strand 1: Fire. Stephen Covey said, “Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.” High performers have their fire of self-motivation burning bright. Rather than seeking money, approval from authority, or fame, they seek fulfilment, growth, and meaning. What skills does motivation include?
- Self-awareness: possession of an accurate understanding and appreciation of our self.
- Determination: pursuit of self-designed, meaningful goals that align with our values and purpose.
- Growth mindset: belief that our full potential can be cultivated through effort and learning.
- Self-efficacy: belief in our ability to accomplish our goals.
Strand 2: Discipline. This is the ability to convert motivation into action. And consistently so. It not only requires goal setting, but also a practice of following through commitments, learning, and readjusting our strategies to meet our goals effectively. The skills encompassing discipline are:
- Grit: the passion and perseverance to remain committed to our long-term goals.
- Self-discipline: the ability to engage in deliberate practice and do work we may not want to do.
- Conscientiousness: being organized, careful, and dependable for the completion of our work.
- Self-control: the ability to control our impulses and delay gratification for a larger future reward.
Strand 3: Control. Finally, control – the ability to overcome adversity when it strikes – enhances the effect of fire and discipline. High performers know how to adapt to change. Be it professional or personal. The non-cognitive skills promoting this level of control include:
- Adaptability: the ability to acclimate to a changing environment.
- Situational awareness: knowledge of our surroundings in order to harness new opportunities.
- Hope: the ability to pursue goals, while navigating around obstacles with a positive outlook.
- Resilience: capacity to bounce back from setbacks and emerge stronger.
As complete as the categorization may seem, according to researcher, Dr. Brian Davidson, it’s incomplete without the glue that holds it all together – our ethical/ moral compass. This allows us to stay true to our integrity and honesty. Else, there is more harm done, than good.
But do we need to develop all 12 skills individually? Thankfully, no! Non-cognitive skills are interrelated and interdependent. For example, when we become more self-motivated, it’s easier to persevere. When we increase our grit, our resilience grows stronger. With increased hope and resiliency, it is easier to be more motivated. The good news – we all possess these skills to some degree. With some focused coaching, mentoring and feedback, we can nurture them. And take the next steps towards excellence.