“For twenty years, 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.” (Carol Dweck)
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck popularized the idea of the growth mindset versuses the fixed mindset. Very simply, the growth mindset assumes that your abilities, intelligence, creativity, etc. can be developed and cultivated over time. On the other hand, the fixed mindset assumes that you are born with those abilities and they will stay at the same level. Although these two ideas sound simple, their ramifications are profound. The two different mindsets affect your relationships, dating, career, education, and many other areas of life.
All throughout school, I was reasonably good at math, towards the top of my class in fact. I saw many students who said and truly believed that they sucked at math due to their own genetics. They thought they could never do better. They saw how well I did and assumed that I was just naturally gifted. However, the truth was, I spent many hours after class focusing on the math topics that were taught in school. My father always told me that math was trainable. Although I didn’t believe him at the time, I can see it now as I look back. I spent hours looking up additional resources to try to really understand mathematical concepts and principles. I looked for additional practice exercises online and in bookstores. I tried to get my hands on everything I could find in order to improve myself. It was almost an obsession. Every time I found something I couldn’t understand, I wanted more. That is the reason why I was good at math. It was my relentless drive and work ethic. Over time, I had cultivated a greater capacity to learn math. I realized I could learn math faster than others because of all the years of practice I had already put in place. It wasn’t because I was naturally born with that gift.
Based on Dweck’s research, there are other benefits to having a growth mindset. People with a growth mindset are more likely to take on greater challenges. They look for a way to learn more rather than look smart. They are more likely to persist when things go bad rather than give up. They see effort as a way to improve and ultimate achieve one’s goal rather than as a worthless endeavor. Perhaps more importantly, they see the success of others as inspiration and not as a threat.
As you can probably imagine, the growth mindset can affect your relationships as well. It can drive you to improve your communication skills, your networking abilities, and your desire to ask out more people. This mindset can affect your career. It can drive you to work towards higher level positions or to take more risks in your own business ventures. It can open your mind to opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise consider. It can drive you to collaborate more effectively since you are no longer threatened by the success of others. It can inspire you to create more since failure is just another reason to keep trying since you found one thing that doesn’t work.
Carol Dweck’s work is truly fascinating and its implications can change your life. If you are interested, I recommend checking out some of the articles below or reading her book.
Professional Development and Personal Finance Blog