Your mindset is more powerful than you think. Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., discovered a simple yet groundbreaking idea on what separates successful people from the rest.
Is it better genes? Better opportunities? More money?
Yes and no.
While it’s true that taller athletes are likelier to succeed in certain sports like basketball, there is a reason why Michael Jordan is an icon. In contrast, other basketball players have had successful but non-notable careers. There’s also a reason why kids who struggled in high school have become more successful in their college years and jobs. There’s also a reason why people who didn’t have the best circumstances still managed to turn their lives around.
If you’re wondering what the reason is, it’s the person’s mindset.
What Is Mindset?
According to Dweck, mindset is a set of beliefs that shape how one makes sense of the world and themselves. This factor influences how you think, feel, and behave in any given situation. These beliefs also affect what you want and whether you can achieve it.
Mindset is about more than just your potential for success. It also influences one’s ability to make positive changes in the long run.
The Two Mindsets: Fixed and Growth Mindsets
According to Dweck, there are two mindsets. The first is the fixed mindset, where people believe their abilities are fixed traits and, therefore, can’t be changed. They also believe that talent and intelligence lead to success, while effort is not an influential factor. This can be especially harmful because it can hinder a person’s ability to reach their true potential.
While it’s true that there are prodigies in music, art, and sport—these people are rare, and those who don’t have the proper training and support are unable to achieve their highest potential.
On the other hand, the growth mindset is when a person believes that their talents and abilities can develop in time through effort and persistence. People with this mindset don’t necessarily think they’ll become a prodigy like Mozart if they try. However, they believe anyone can get more intelligent or talented if they invest their time and effort.
So, how does one develop a mindset?
Much like in most cases, our childhood plays an influential role in how our mindset is formed. According to Dweck, there are two primary sources on how a mindset is formed: Praising and labeling, which everyone has experienced.
Dweck and her team of researchers found that children behave very differently depending on the kind of praise they receive. They found that personal praise, or praises that label a child as “smart” or “talented,” promotes a fixed mindset.
Meanwhile, praising the child’s process and effort encourages a growth mindset. Suppose a child struggles to finish a race but manages to finish first and is commended for their hard work. In that case, they’ll understand the importance of effort.
Labels also play a role in developing one’s mindset. Assigning people based on stereotypes or associations can lead to a fixed or growth mindset. A person who believes girls are naturally bad at math may find their fixed mindset challenged when they realize that’s not the case.
How Does Mindset Affect Your Life?
Your mindset influences how you cope with life’s challenges. When a person has a fixed mindset and truly believes they’re “not smart enough” to solve problems, they are likelier to give up and become demotivated and distressed.
However, suppose a person has a growth mindset. In that case, they’ll see obstacles as challenges that can be overcome through hard work and perseverance.
For instance, JK Rowling received Countless rejection letters from publishers before Bloomsbury finally decided to print the first Harry Potter book. The series has since achieved enormous success and remains a cultural phenomenon in today’s pop culture. Suppose JK Rowling had given up on her talents after the first rejection letter. Would the world be able to enjoy her wonderful world of magic?
How Can I Fix My Mindset?
Do you think you have a fixed mindset? While we all have certain tendencies to limit ourselves from time to time, there are instances how we can learn to embrace growth and the process of accepting failure. Here are some handy tips for developing a growth mindset:
1. Value the learning process.
Failure is an opportunity to learn and reflect on what you did wrong and how you can improve things. Develop a growth mindset by valuing each moment you’ve learned your lesson and being grateful that you’ve gotten something out of it. Take your time to achieve success, and trust the process.
2. Add “yet” to negative statements.
Add “yet” to the end of things you think to limit you. Here are some examples:
- “I can’t do this…yet.”
- “I don’t understand this…yet.”
- “I can’t finish this…yet.”
You can also add your spin to things. Instead of adding “yet,” you can say, “But I’ll learn,” which will have the same effect.
- “I don’t understand this, but I’ll learn.”
- “I don’t know what to do, but I’ll learn.”
- “It’s hard to deliver, but I’ll learn.”
As you can see, struggling with something is not the end of the world. No one becomes a master of a skill overnight, so always remember this is part of the learning process.
3. Take on challenges.
Are you thinking of applying for a job but are unsure? Do you have what it takes to apply for a scholarship? Regardless of your doubts, there is nothing wrong with trying and putting your best foot forward. If you get rejected, you can ask the interviewer how to improve your chances. That way, no experience goes without a lesson.
The Bottom Line:
Our mindset can dictate our success in more ways than one. That includes our work, relationships, and reactions to life circumstances. While our childhood experiences influence our mindset, we can still change it for the better by treating ourselves with more compassion and understanding.
“Mindset: the New Psychology for Success” by Carol S. Dweck is available on Amazon.