Dr. Carol S. Dweck, pioneer in the study of fixed versus growth mindsets, demonstrated that in predicting success, it doesn’t matter whether someone is gifted or not. What matters is a person’s belief that they can succeed and prevail.
The person who doesn’t succeed is often blocked by a fixed mindset — that is, a mindset that assumes abilities and talents are given, limited and minimally subject to improvement. This person believes they were born with certain qualities, both positive and negative, and that they are largely fixed throughout life. While they usually recognize the value of training and education, when it comes to raising their horizons and imagining a bold and strikingly different future, it’s often just beyond them.
A growth mindset, on the other hand, is one in a constant state of flux and at work improving, expanding and honing all inherent talents and gifts, as well as adding to and improving those acquired along the way. Those of us with a growth mindset can, with time, effort and practice, acquire and improve skills and abilities to accomplish things previously thought impossible. With a real growth mindset, you don’t just believe this, you live it. As Henry Ford is thought to have said, “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.”
Ford recognized there’s nothing that will hold you back as much as the belief that you can’t do something. He didn’t call it a “fixed mindset,” but had that term been around back then, he certainly could have. He also might have recognized a fixed mindset as an unhappiness trigger.
Benefits Of Having A Growth Mindset
Those with a growth mindset are more likely to embrace challenges, use feedback and learn from failures and mistakes rather than dwell on them. Someone with a growth mindset will enjoy learning new things. They will, therefore, accept challenges, persist and be driven to achieve their goals. This can help people be more creative because they are more likely to persistently pursue solutions.
With a focus on bettering oneself rather than protecting oneself, someone with a growth mindset will not feel threatened by the intelligence and success of others. Instead, they will be more likely to admire others, learn from them and find inspiration in their successes.
Drawbacks Of A Fixed Mindset
Those with a fixed mindset are more likely to avoid learning situations because they’re a direct challenge to the ego. With the stakes of success and failure dramatically heightened by the ego’s drive to protect itself, attending a class, for example, becomes less about learning and more about looking for an opportunity to show that they already know all the answers. Someone with a fixed mindset is more likely to avoid challenges, give up easily and see little point in making effort toward a goal.
A Growth Mindset For Freedom
A growth mindset offers more freedom to reach your full potential and stay in alignment with your values instead of being held back by limiting beliefs. With this freedom, everything is possible. And it brings with it the courage and motivation to strive, fail and strive again.
People who experience this type of freedom believe they have the ability to change not only their own lives but also the lives of others. They don’t see things as static.
Practical Steps To Develop A Growth Mindset
Both mindsets are the products of lifelong experiences, observations and education. But with practice, determination and effort, you can develop a growth mindset. Here are some practical steps:
1. First, you must believe you can do it. Use a daily mantra or a similar device. Convince yourself you’re capable of all the change you need. It might take some work to instill this in yourself, but by reminding yourself of the payoff — growth and accomplishment — you can do it.
2. Avoid blaming circumstances or others for your shortcomings. You have to recognize you’re responsible for your own future and for making the most of your innate talents and abilities. So the next time you hear yourself blaming something or someone, take a step back, own up to your responsibility, identify the lesson and move on.
3. Those seeking change must also be curious. Marvel at how much you don’t know. Get used to this feeling. Not knowing is not a reason for fear or shame, but for excitement. Follow up on it by asking questions and seeking more information.
4. Allow yourself to fail. As uncomfortable as that may be, it’s essential that you try and fail, and try and fail again. Every failure is a stepping stone on the path to success. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you of the many famous people who at first failed miserably and then went on to become leaders, influencers and role models.
5. Leave your comfort zone and become at home operating outside it. For many of us, the comfort zone is a refuge, a place to go to be free from challenges. However, “free from challenges” also means “free from growth.” Push yourself and grow.
6. Don’t place undue emphasis on results. Sure, it’s often results that count, but don’t forget to reward yourself for your efforts. Well-earned self-praise for a valiant attempt can sustain you over the long haul. When the going gets tough, process is critical.
7. Be aware of the green-eyed monster, envy. When faced with another person’s success, think, “I’ll use their success as a model for what I want to achieve,” not, “Boy, do I wish I had achieved what they have.” The former spurs you to success; the latter limits you. Use admiration as a tool to guide you along the road to success.
8. Lastly, don’t let the protection of your ego get between you and the changes that could make you happier and more successful. A growth mindset will push you into areas where you feel less comfortable, less accomplished and more afraid. The ego doesn’t like this, but listening to it leads to the path to mediocrity. If you want to shine and excel, you have to be prepared to challenge your ego, limiting beliefs and assumed limitations.
Developing a growth mindset can be aided immeasurable by improving your emotional intelligence. Read further about using emotional intelligence to remove the unhappiness trigger of a fixed mindset, thereby opening paths to successes in every area of your life.
This article was originally published in Forbes.
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