I first heard about Carol Dweck’s research on mindset and the growth mindset on YouTube around 2014. Since then I have kept this idea in mind and applying it to my life had a large positive impact. In this post I want to share some of the ideas I learned from her talks.
To give you some background, let me introduce Carol Dweck first. She is a professor at Stanford University and a leading researcher in the field of motivation. She has given a TED Talk and spoken at the White House. Her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success from 2004, tells the story of her research on mindset and draws conclusions on how to best motivate yourself and others. Her argument is that mindset is one of the key factors to success.
I do agree with her on it and therefore keep working on improving my mindset. Most articles or videos I make touch the topic in one way or another. So what actually is this mindset thing?
What’s a Mindset?
Even though one has a general understanding of what a mindset is, it helps to take a close look at its definition to better understand it. Very broadly defined a mindset refers to a person’s way of thinking or their opinion. More narrowly defined it is the established set of attitudes held by someone (Oxford Dictionaries).
So mindset defines what and how you think of your environment or situations that occur in your life. It defines how you react to them and influences the conclusions you draw.
Mindset explains why there are some people who thrive despite facing challenges and failing. It explains why other people tend to give up even though they have the same abilities and skillset to start with.
Growth vs. Fixed Mindset
Carol Dweck introduces the idea of the growth mindset vs. fixed mindset in her book. What she says, is that people can be placed on a continuum which has people who adopt a growth mindset on one end and at the other end people who adopt a fixed mindset.
Dweck describes this continuum as following
“In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.” – Interview with Carol Dweck
People with a fixed mindset are afraid of being found out. They fear failure because they think people will think they are stupid. The better option is to instead believe that this doesn’t matter and one should instead invest time to develop your abilities and get smarter.
The Importance of Mindset
Your mindset is so important because it controls or at least influences a large number of the decisions you make in your life.
The speaker and coach Tony Robbins keeps repeating this in his workshop and books. When talking about mindset, he makes use of the Pareto Rule and says that “80% of your success is mindset, and only 20% strategy”. Most of the decisions you make every day are not rational, they are based on your attitudes or beliefs on how the world is like. If you want to make better decisions, you do not need to work on your logic skills, but on your mindset instead.
Another famous person who believes in the importance of mindset is Jack Ma. He is the founder of e-commerce company Alibaba and a self-made billionaire. After his application to Harvard University was rejected, he applied again in the following nine years. Further when people told him his idea of the payment service Alipay is stupid he kept on going. Now there are several hundred million people using it.
Make Use of the Growth Mindset in your Own Life
In order to apply the Growth Mindset to your own life, start rewarding yourself for progress and not for results. Do not tell yourself that you are successful because you are smart, but instead say “I am successful because I have worked hard for it”. Making progress is much more important than being smart or having good conditions to start with.
Another way to apply the Growth Mindset is to say “not yet” whenever you haven’t made it. When I aimed to be in the Top 20% of my class at university and I didn’t make it, that’s what I told myself. I did not tell myself that I failed and that I was not successful. Instead I told myself that I had made progress towards it and just did not make it yet. When saying “not yet”, it implies that you will reach the goal another time. You indirectly communicate yourself that its ok to believe and that you can continue making progress. It also communicates that you actually made progress in the past.
Further do not aim to be perfect! When you strive for perfectionism you will achieve less than you could. You will limit yourself. This is how I approached this blog post. If I would have aimed for this to be a perfect post, I would have never published it. Of course by no means this is a perfect blog post: My grammar can be improved and also the structure is not completely the way it could be. Still despite it shortcomings this blog post might benefit people. That’s why I publish it. I aim for progress and not for perfectionism. It’s ok to strive for excellence, but never strive for perfectionism. Every time I have been perfectionist in my life this only held me back instead of helping me to achieve something.
Do you rather have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset?
How could applying the idea and concept of growth mindset help you advance?
What is a challenge you can apply the growth mindset to? 🙂