The Most Powerful Mindset for Success — Carol Dweck
There is a psychological trait that all successful people appear to have in common. It’s been cosigned by Bill Gates and NASA uses it as a criteria for selecting potential Systems Engineers. This concept is called the Growth Mindset, a term originally coined by Carol Dweck.
People with the growth mindset believe that intelligence or skill, in any field, can be developed through effort. Basically, they believe that anyone can nurture their abilities in anything. The inverse of the growth mindset is the fixed mindset. People with this mindset believe that intelligence and skill are innate: it’s something that we’re born with. We’re either born gifted or not; there is no room for change. Basically, they believe intelligence is fixed from birth. In this essay, we’ll explore why the growth mindset is the better one and how we can develop it.
So, we talked a little about what the growth mindset is: the belief that intelligence and skill, in any field, can be developed. But, let’s also talk about what it’s not. It’s not magic. It won’t help you get everything that you want out of life and it won’t make you the next Elon Musk or Steve Jobs. However, it is a very powerful lens with which to see the world and it can improve the probability of your success. All of us are a mixture of both growth and fixed mindsets. In some areas of our lives, we operate with a growth mindset. In others, we operate with a fixed mindset. Because of this, I want you to think of both mindsets like a pair of glasses. Some people wear the growth glasses more often and others wear the fixed glasses more. However, we all wear both in different situations in our lives. Although, we should all strive to wear the growth ones much more than we wear the fixed ones. But, why?
Well, a lot of research seems to suggest that people with the growth mindset are more successful than people with a fixed mindset. For example, a study found that “Students who held a growth mindset were three times more likely to score in the top 20% on the test, while students with a fixed mindset were four times more likely to score in the bottom 20%.” Another study found that when 7th graders participated in a growth mindset program, they were able to avoid a drop in grades which usually occurs in middle school. People with the growth mindset are much more resilient which allows them to overcome challenging and difficult situations. Because they prioritize learning over failure, they are unafraid to take risks. They prioritize growing over stagnation. On the other hand, people with a fixed mindset don’t want to challenge themselves because they believe talent and intelligence are fixed. They look at failure as an assault on who they are as a person. To them, lack of knowledge is an indicator of stupidity and failure once means failure always. A person with the growth mindset believes that they are always in a state of flux and transformation; so, they don’t attach their identity to their results. Instead, they focus on the process of growing and learning. Few people will deny that the growth mindset seems to map nicely onto reality. We know that the brain can continue to learn until the day we die, thanks to the field of neuroscience. It also seems quite intuitive that people must work hard and persevere, despite obstacles, to end up being successful. So, the growth mindset seems to be a much more accurate view of reality than the fixed mindset. People with the growth mindset are living in greater accordance with reality than people with the fixed mindset. They can make truer decisions whereas a person with the fixed mindset lives in a greater state of delusion.
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