One’s mindset is defined as the perception of achieving goals in both the professional and personal lives. In other words, a mindset helps define one’s personality. It reflects the way an individual views and acts toward life, how they perceive success and failure, as well as determining their emotional, cognitive, behavioural and neural responses to these experiences.
Interested in the concept of the human mindset and its impact on our lives, Carol Dweck, a Stanford University Professor of Psychology, decided to dig deeper into human motivation and explore the elements of success.
Dweck synthesised her findings into the famous book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”, in which Dweck explains the differences in our behaviour, specifically, in our mindsets and how they substantially influence the outcomes.
In the book, Dweck coined the two terms “Fixed mindset” and “Growth mindset” indicating that our mindsets can predict our future success and achievements.
The Fixed mindset vs. the Growth mindset
In order to prove that habits and beliefs do have impacts on our behaviour, Dweck conducted an experiment in how children react when they encounter challenges and failures.
First, she asked the kids to solve a series of increasingly difficult puzzles and recorded their responses to the problem. Surprisingly, when dealing with a problem that they couldn’t solve, these kids didn’t give up or consider failing as a failure.
They thought they were learning through solving the hard puzzles and loved to be challenged, which initiated the growth mindset within the kids’ sense of learning. While this seems like a simple matter, the impacts and differences between a fixed mindset and growth mindset on one’s self-perceptions should not be overlooked.
Fixed mindset: Having a fixed mindset is believing that one’s capabilities, qualities and traits are permanent and cannot be developed through time. People with a fixed mindset believe that success is the result of mere talent, needless of additional effort.
Therefore, they tend to strive for success, avoid failure at all cost, and are conservative as well as reluctant to incorporate changes and improvements. Someone with a fixed mindset would constantly look for ways to prove themselves as a way to affirm their inherent intelligence.
Growth mindset: On the other hand, a growth mindset is defined as someone who believes that they can learn and improve their basic abilities through effort and failures. People who possess a growth mindset will interpret failures and challenges as opportunities to grow and further cultivate their existing qualities and talents. They strive for self-improvement, are self-aware of their flaws and shortcomings, and hence, welcome new challenges and perceive failures positively.
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For example, Dweck did another experiment in which she let four-year-old students choose between an easy puzzle and a difficult one. Obviously, kids with fixed mindsets chose the easier problem so as to prove that they could always be successful and validate their abilities.
Meanwhile, the kids who chose to deal with the difficult puzzle were those that possessed a growth mindset, because they viewed this as a challenge from which they could learn and grow even though they might fail several times.
Our beliefs can have impacts on our future success
According to Carol Dweck’s research, those who possess growth mindsets are more likely to be successful. It is because the growth mindset stimulates one’s drive, willingness, and overall foundation of belief to achieve bigger and better outcomes. Our beliefs, conscious or unconscious, can either push you to become better or hold you back from advancements and improvements.
However, although the benefits of cultivating a growth mindset are clear and significant, why do most people tend to default to a fixed mindset?
Most of the time, this is because of the fear of failing and insecurities. When dealing with setbacks, fixed mindset individuals tend to put the blame on others or negatively criticise themselves, which will eventually lead to unhappy, negative feelings and discourages all kinds of improvements.
In the case of the growth-oriented individuals, they understand that the harder they work, the more tenacity they have, along with a positive view toward hardships, and the more successful they will be.
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Fortunately, one’s behaviours are not static as long as you are aware of developing your personal growth and determined to change your mindset. Start with simple traits like changing your bad habits, your weight and focus on the process, not the results because sometimes the key to success is not giving up to a problem but to overcome it.
More specifically, human behaviour can be altered for the better by simply committing to a goal plus setting a schedule, showing up, and sticking to it, instead of keeping your mind busy with just the outcomes.
Lastly, self-awareness and self-compassion are the key features that help shape the growth mindset as they help to balance and clearly understand one’s weaknesses and nurtures one’s desire to grow, and eventually, become happier in life.