A National Science Foundation-funded review of 61 success studies found these three things cited over and over again.
Henry Ford once famously said: “Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.”
It’s a pithy quote (Ford was a quote machine) but now, just over 70 years after his death, a new research project funded by the National Science Foundation points to a wealth of evidence that backs him up.
The research focused on college students, specifically studying factors that made them more likely to good grades, stay in school, and graduate. There were three findings, which I’m gong to go ahead and call the Henry Ford Rule: Learning to believe in yourself and your abilities, empirical research suggests, makes you more likely to succeed in and of itself.
Here’s the research project, the takeaways, and how you can use them to improve your life–whether you’re still a student or have long since left the classroom.
Not just a study: a study of studies
The NSF-funded project involved 12 psychologists and other Ph.Ds from universities and think tanks around the country, who reviewed reports on a total 61 other experimental studies on college students and success.
Across the board, the report found, there were there were three main factors that foretold greater achievement, across disciplines and regardless of factors like the students’ test scores or socioeconomic status. The factors included:
- Developing a sense of belonging
This first factor has to do with the degree to which students believe that they “belong in college, fit in well and are socially integrated,” according to asummarythat quoted one of the study’s co-authors, Fred Oswald, a professor of psychology at Rice University. Of the 61 studies involved, more than 50 found that simply feeling like they belonged in school had a positive impact on students’ grades.
- Enabling a “growth mindset”
Regular readers of this column will know that we’re all about thegrowth mindset. Embracing a firm belief that intelligence is not a fixed attribute–and that it can be strengthened through use, like a muscle–had a firm impact on students’ success. Of the 61 studies, 75 percent found that embracing a growth mindset improved students’ GPAs.
- Having articulable personal goals and values
Finally, 83 percent of the studies–by my math, that makes either 50 or 51–found that students who embraced “personal goals and values that [they] perceive[d] to be directly linked to the achievement of a future, desired end” were more likely to succeed. Again, this was measured mostly by comparing the students’ GPAs.