It’s not how good you are… it’s how good you want to be
Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University and the author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success“, studies human motivation. She spends her time trying to understand why some people succeed and why others don’t. Particularly, what’s within their control to foster success and whats not.
Her theory of the two mindsets and the difference they make in outcomes is extremely powerful. In her book, Dweck poses that how we view and inhabit our personality is one of our most basic beliefs and it fundamentally underpins everything about us.
What is a Fixed Mindset?
People with a fixed mindset believe they are born with their abilities which are fixed and unchangeable, creating a glass ceiling for their success.
A fixed mindset leads you to believe that your character, intelligence, and creative ability are static (fixed). This means that they can’t be changed in any meaningful way and success is determined by your intrinsic levels of these 3 things.
The way you must maintain this mindset is by always achieving success and completely avoiding failure.
Said differently, a “fixed mindset” ultimately is an assessment of how your given talents measure up against the equally fixed standard of reality; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense and persona of being clever or skilled.
What is the Definition of Growth Mindset?
In contrast, people with a growth mindset believe their abilities can be developed and strengthened over time through hard work, commitment and dedication.
A growth mindset thrives on challenges. A growth mindset sees failure not as evidence of a lack of intelligence, but as an opportunity to grow and expand upon existing abilities – as a springboard for future growth!
As you can imagine, depending on which mindset you grew up with can determine a lot of the choices and actions you’ve made as an adult and ultimately – your capacity for happiness…
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset (What is the Main Difference?)
What Dweck uncovered in her years of research is truly immense in terms of the reality we each perceive and live:
…my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value. How does this happen? How can a simple belief have the power to transform your psychology and, as a result, your life?
Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics.
I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves — in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser? . . .
There’s another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand you’re dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.
Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.
Examples of a Growth Mindset
At the heart of it, the growth mindset creates a passion for learning – nothing is unattainable and everything is an adventure – the hunger for approval is replaced by the growth through deliberate practice mentality .
There are no limitations created by external expectations.
People with the growth mindset are not discouraged by failure because they don’t actually see themselves as failing, they see themselves as learning. Dweck continues:
Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.
Here are some more examples and attributes of people with the Growth Mindset:
- Failure is an opportunity to grow
- Can learn to do anything they want
- Challenges help them to grow
- Effort and attitude determine their abilities
- Intelligence and talent are ever-improving
- Inspired by the success of others
- Like to try new things
- Prioritize learning over seeking approval
- Persist in the face of setbacks
- Learn to give and receive constructive criticism
Examples of a Fixed Mindset
Dweck uncovered that people with the fixed mindset see risk and effort as potential ‘shows’ of their inadequacies, revealing that they come up short in some way. But the relationship between mindset and effort is a two-way street:
As you begin to understand the fixed and growth mindsets, you will see exactly how one thing leads to another—how a belief that your qualities are carved in stone leads to a host of thoughts and actions, and how a belief that your qualities can be cultivated leads to a host of different thoughts and actions, taking you down an entirely different road.
What happens when people with a fixed mindset encounter failure?
Well, Dweck explains it well:
If success had meant they were intelligent, then less-than-success meant they were deficient.
Nobody wants to feel deficient, so they tend to stay within their boundaries, with emotions, feelings and actions characterised by the following:
- Failure is the limit of my abilities
- I’m either good at it or I’m not
- My abilities are unchanging
- I don’t like to be challenged
- I can either do it or I can’t
- My potential is predetermined
- When I’m frustrated I give up
- Unable to handle criticism or feedback
- I stick to what I know
- Threatened by the success of others
Thats not how you want to live though right? So how do you change?
8 Ways to Develop a Growth Mindset
1. The process is more important than the result
Bad results can make you quit because you prioritize results over the process.
However, when you focus on the process then the result is less important. If the result isn’t what you wanted that’s okay because you can go back and analyze the process and seek to improve and try understand what went wrong.
When you focus on the process you have epiphanies allowing you to constantly seek guidance and improve.
2. Think Realistically About Your Time And Effort
It takes time to learn and it takes time to put in effort. Some things will take longer to learn than others.
Be wary of that as some people think they’ll master something in one sitting. It doesn’t always work that way.
Once you realize that taking time to improve is okay your world can truly change.
3. Do Things That Are Tough
Those who have a fixed mindset will avoid tasks that present challenges to them. They would rather stick with what they are comfortable with. They see challenges as opportunities for failure rather than growth.
Instead of doing that, push yourself. Even in situations where you’re not fully aware of what you need to do. Don’t be reckless, but rather strategic with them.
Could you see yourself getting into that type of work or doing that project? If you have a passion for it, then great! You’re going to learn more about it – even though when you begin you may not have the skills to handle the job well.
4. Take ownership over your attitude.
Once you develop a growth mindset, own it. Acknowledge yourself as someone who possesses a growth mentality and be proud to let it guide you throughout your life and educational career.
5. Focus on Your Effort
Effort is important in any successful endeavour but how we think about effort is in some ways, more important. While we will be working towards our goal regardless, there are elements along the way that can disrupt us.
For example, consider praise. Praise can help us give that little bit extra. Think back to an example where you received words of encouragement and a pat on the back – it certainly does help. But it’s something that you have to be careful about.
It’s important that while putting in the effort, you are praising our efforts instead of our abilities. For example, don’t praise your ability of doing the job perfectly, rather, praise the effort and devotion to your craft instead.
The ability praise pushed students right into the fixed mindset, and they showed all the signs of it, too: When we gave them a choice, they rejected a challenging new task that they could learn from. They didn’t want to do anything that could expose their flaws and call into question their talent.
6. View challenges as opportunities.
Challenges are an inevitable part of life and they can truly be opportunities if you have the perspective, honesty, openness and curiosity to see them as such. Having a growth mindset means relishing these opportunities for self-improvement and grow.
7. Acknowledge and embrace imperfections.
Everyone on earth has imperfections, but sometimes this is extremely hard to accept. No matter how many compliments, achievements and good decisions you accumulate, there are probably moments when all you can see is your very worst traits. You might obsess over the skills you’ve never managed to master. Or, you resent the way your friends perform better in social groups and constantly replay what you see as your failures.
Embracing your flaws is about accepting that everyone is fallible and that it’s nonetheless possible to be lovable, good and successful. That isn’t to say you should give up on self-improvement and personal development, citing as an excuse that “nobody is perfect”. Rather, be kinder to yourself about the things that don’t go so well in life, the issues you struggle with and the skills you can’t quite seem to master and focus on the process in these instances, rather than the results.
8. Don’t Look for Approval All the Time
This could also be considered as a way to be more independent when it comes to approval. When we place our efforts towards pleasing a person other than ourselves, we start to lose ourselves.
Instead of focusing on what others think, focus on your own learning and growth in the area.
The Power of YET (Developing a Growth Mindset with Carol Dweck)
Conclusion and Take Aways
Growth mindset means you embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, take responsibility for your words and actions, and acknowledges that effort and process is the path toward mastery.
By choosing to make the effort to build a growth mindset, you can make your mental processes to work for you, resulting in a greater likelihood that you get the results you’re looking for and live the life you want to live.
When you start to change the way you think, act, and learn, great things can be achieved.