Here's How To Get Into The Growth Mindset (Psst ... It's Connected To Success)
When we look at the most successful people in our life, it's human default to assume that they are more intelligent, gifted, or special. But in her groundbreaking book Mindset, author and psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., taught us that success actually traces back to mindset. Today, we use the phrases she coined on a regular basis, like fixed mindset (thinking our qualities are set in stone) and the ever-popular growth mindset (the belief that abilities can be developed over time). In the latest edition of her classic book, we learn even more—like what Dweck refers to as the "false growth mindset"—and how to apply these lessons to larger groups and organizations. This book is an exciting and timeless reminder about the power of mindset and how it can transform our lives and others'.
To get a taste of the updated edition of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, read the article below. To order your own copy, click here.
Do you think intelligence is something you can develop over time, or do you consider it a fixed trait? Are you driven by the consuming goal of proving yourself over and over again—in a classroom, in a career, or in a relationship? Are you terrified of being ordinary? Do you feel the need to be perfect today, not tomorrow?
In Mindset, you'll learn how a simple belief about yourself—a belief that Carol Dweck discovered in her research—guides a large part of your life and is a critical factor that helps you either achieve your potential or holds you back. In fact, mindset permeates every part of your life. Much of what you think of as your personality actually grows out of whether you embrace a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.
You'll suddenly understand what separates the greats—in the sciences and arts, in sports, and in business—from the would-have-beens. You'll better understand your partner, your boss, your friends, your kids. You'll see how to unleash your potential as well as the potential of those around you. You have a choice to make. Mindsets are just beliefs. They're powerful beliefs, but they're just something in your mind, and you can change your mind. As you read this article, think about where you'd like to go and which mindset will take you there.
As much as our culture talks about individual effort and self-improvement, we often like to praise effortless accomplishment and tend to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. The fixed mindset believes that effort is for those who don't have the ability and who can't make it on talent alone. We don't like to think of our heroes as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary with a lot of effort. But they are.
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. Some of us are trained in this mindset from an early age. Every situation is evaluated and calls for a confirmation of your intelligence, personality, or character. Will you succeed or fail? Will you look smart or dumb? Will you be accepted or rejected?
By contrast, in a growth mindset, every situation is an opportunity to learn. 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.
If you're somebody when you're successful, what are you when you're unsuccessful? Mindsets frame the running account that's taking place in people's heads. They guide the whole interpretation process. The fixed mindset creates an internal monologue that is focused on judging: "This means I'm a loser." "This means I'm a better person than they are." "This means my partner is selfish."
In several studies, Dweck probed the way people with a fixed mindset dealt with information they were receiving. She found that they put a very strong evaluation on each and every piece of information. Something good led to a very strong positive label, and something bad led to a very strong negative label. When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world, failure is about having a setback. Getting a bad grade. Getting fired. Getting rejected. It means you're not smart or talented.
In the growth mindset world, failure is about not growing. Not reaching for the things you value. It means you're not fulfilling your potential. Even in the growth mindset, failure can be a painful experience. But it doesn't define you. It's a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from, allowing people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives. The fixed mindset does not allow us the luxury of "becoming." We have to already be.
In the growth mindset, your 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. 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, your strategies, and help from others.
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 Michael Jordan? 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.
On (Not) Embracing Change
Changing your mindset can be difficult. As you can imagine, it's not easy to just let go of something that has felt like your "self" for many years and that has given you your route to self-esteem. And it's especially not easy to replace it with a mindset that tells you to embrace all the things that have felt threatening: challenge, struggle, criticism, setbacks.
And it's not as if the fixed mindset wants to leave gracefully. If the fixed mindset has been controlling your internal monologue, it can say some pretty strong things to you when it is triggered by challenges: You are not a work in progress, you're a finished product. And finished products have to protect themselves, lament, and blame. Everything but take charge. In contrast, a growth mindset is, in its essence, a belief in change, a commitment to change, and a road map for change.
On Kicking the "Judge and Be Judged" Habit
Mindset change is not about picking up a few pointers here and there. It's about seeing things in a new way. When people—couples, coaches and athletes, managers and workers, parents and children, teachers and students—change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework. Their commitment is to growth, and growth takes plenty of time, effort, and mutual support to achieve and maintain. People with a growth mindset are also constantly monitoring what's going on, but their internal monologue is not about judging themselves and others in this way. When confronting challenges, they ask themselves: What can I learn from this? How can I improve? How can I support my partner to do this better?
When people drop the good–bad, strong–weak thinking that grows out of the fixed mindset, they're better able to learn useful strategies. It's like anything else in the growth mindset. It's a reminder that you're an unfinished human being and a clue to how to do it better next time.
Grow Your Mindset Quiz
Which mindset do you have? Answer four questions about intelligence. Read each statement and decide whether you mostly agree with it or disagree with it.
Questions 1 and 2 are the fixed-mindset questions. Questions 3 and 4 reflect the growth mindset. Which mindset did you agree with more? You can be a mixture, but most people lean toward one or the other.
You also have beliefs about other abilities. You could substitute "artistic talent," "sports ability," or "business skill" for "intelligence." Try it.
Devon Barrow is a Branded Content Editor at mindbodygreen. She received her degree from the University of Colorado. When she's away from her desk, Devon is teaching yoga, writing poetry, meditating, and traveling the world. She's based in Boulder, Colorado.
Devon's first book, Earth Women, is coming soon. To learn more, join the mailing list, and receive updates, head to www.devonbarrowwriting.com.