Unconscious beliefs can greatly impact our desires and accomplishments. In her book Mindset, Stanford University psychology professor Carol S. Dweck argues that our attitudes towards our abilities and intelligence shape the trajectory of our lives, starting in early childhood. Dweck, a Yale Ph.D. holder, is a decorated researcher in social and developmental psychology.
Her book is rooted in the nature vs. nurture debate, which suggests that a nurturing environment can be more influential than innate abilities and behaviors. Dweck contends that fostering growth is the key to ongoing improvement, regardless of natural talents.
The Two Mindsets
Your mindset plays a significant role in your personality and your ability to reach your potential, according to Dweck. It influences how you perceive success, failure, effort, and how you handle various aspects of life, including school, sports, work, and relationships. Dweck explains that you adopt either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset based on the influences of your parents, teachers, and media consumption.
1-) A fixed mindset operates under the belief that personal traits such as intelligence and personality are innate and unalterable. This mindset is often instilled in us from an early age, with phrases like “I was never good at math” or “some people are just naturally athletic” reinforcing the idea. Those with a fixed mindset feel the need to constantly prove themselves because they believe that innate abilities determine success. They may worry that they have been given a limited amount of ability and thus strive to overcompensate.
2-) A growth mindset holds that people can develop and enhance their abilities. It posits that innate talent is merely a starting point, and hard work, persistence, and effective learning strategies can lead to continuous improvement. Those with a growth mindset possess a love for learning and view mistakes as opportunities to learn. They embrace challenges to challenge themselves and grow further.
Learn How to Learn
Jim Kwik, a brain and memory coach, has built his career around the idea that anyone can learn and improve in any area. In his book Limitless, Kwik outlines three key components of learning:
Mindframe: You must believe that learning is possible (i.e., a growth mindset).
Drive: You must have the motivation to learn, whether it comes from personal interest or external factors like career aspirations.
Techniques: You must use effective methods to absorb and retain information.
By mastering these three aspects, Kwik asserts that you can learn about any topic faster and more easily than you ever imagined. He credits his own success to this system of learning.
Success and Failure
Dweck explains that in the fixed mindset, success is proving your intelligence and talent, and setbacks are failures that imply you’re not good enough. This mindset leads to quitting when faced with challenges. In contrast, the growth mindset sees success as learning and improving, while failure is an opportunity to learn and reach your potential.
Review Your Definition of Success
Success is a subjective concept that is rooted in personal ideology. According to fixed mindsets, success is achieving wealth, fame, or respect regardless of the effort. This rigid definition can make people feel like failures if they fall short. However, if success is defined by personal ideals, then individuals can determine their own success.
They can review their actions and ideals to decide where they are falling short and redefine success accordingly. If the definition of success is based on a fixed-mindset, redefining success may be necessary for a fulfilling life.
Perfection Versus Learning
Dweck explains that those with fixed mindsets strive for perfection to prove their innate abilities, while viewing effort as a weakness. In contrast, those with growth mindsets see effort as a positive and feel accomplished through progress and improvement.
Ironically, the perfectionism that comes with a fixed mindset can be detrimental to self-esteem, as it’s based on unrealistic expectations. Bestselling author Brené Brown notes that perfectionism is dangerous and can lead to shame and self-criticism. Instead, it’s important to recognize and revise unrealistic goals.
How the Mindsets Affect Children
Dweck warns that children can develop mindsets as young as three years old, influenced by the behavior of adults around them. Fixed mindsets hinder learning and can cause fear of failure, while growth mindsets embrace challenges and promote lifelong learning. Stephen Covey considers learning one of four essential human needs for happiness and fulfillment. Dweck discusses two behaviors that can promote a fixed mindset in children: praise and bullying.
Dweck cautions against praising children’s performance as it reinforces a fixed mindset. Instead, she recommends applying a growth mindset by praising children for their efforts, persistence, and improvement. Parents can help their children build confidence by teaching them to welcome challenges, learn from mistakes, and try new learning strategies. Positive reinforcement, in combination with ignoring unwanted behavior, is the best way to change a person’s behavior.
Dweck says bullying can create fixed mindsets in victims who see themselves as inferior and deserving of mistreatment. Fixed mindset victims may seek revenge on the bully, while growth mindset victims are more likely to want to understand and help the aggressor.
Dweck also notes that bullying is often caused by fixed mindset thinking, where bullies view vulnerable kids as inferior. Some psychologists suggest a growth mindset approach to rehabilitating bullies by teaching them social and self-regulatory skills.
How the Mindsets Affect Your Life
Dweck believes that mindset shapes every aspect of life, including sports. In fixed-mindset thinking, “naturals” are expected to achieve, and talent becomes a drawback as these athletes don’t push themselves and prioritize individual performance over teamwork.
Athletes with growth mindsets find defeat motivating, define success as learning and improving, and understand the importance of working with their teammates. While some people are more naturally talented than others, practice widens talent gaps, and early bloomers who receive special attention and training can become self-fulfilling prophecies of their perceived talent.
The Mindsets in Business
Dweck asserts that a company’s success or failure is largely determined by the mindset of its leader. Fixed-mindset leaders consider themselves geniuses who don’t need a strong team, resulting in their self-serving behavior that can lead to belittling employees and ignoring mistakes.
Conversely, growth-oriented leaders believe in the ability of everyone to learn and develop, leading to positive and energized work environments. Dweck highlights that industry-leading companies, regardless of the industry, operate with growth mindsets and prioritize improving the company and employees over self-promotion.
Incorporate a Growth Mindset Into Meetings
Lafley’s “advocacy” and “inquiry” meeting styles reflect Dweck’s two mindsets. The advocacy-fixed mindset is about defending one’s idea and proving that it’s “good,” while the inquiry-growth mindset is about open inquiry, asking for feedback, and recognizing that every employee has the potential to contribute to the best strategy for the company. This approach recognizes that even talented and experienced individuals can overlook something and that every idea has the potential to be improved upon.
The Mindsets in Relationships
Dweck suggests that a fixed mindset can lead to negative beliefs about relationships, such as the idea that relationships are predetermined and unchangeable. In contrast, people with a growth mindset believe that relationships can be improved through effort and communication, and that challenges can actually bring partners closer together.
By adopting a growth mindset, individuals can become more resilient in the face of relationship challenges and more willing to put in the work required to maintain a healthy relationship.
Growth Begins With Acceptance
To develop a growth mindset in relationships, you can practice Radical Acceptance by accepting each moment as it is without judgment or trying to change it. This allows you to stay in control, approach situations calmly, and determine the best course of action.
In relationships, Radical Acceptance involves recognizing and approaching problems with compassion, understanding your partner’s perspective, and respecting it even if you don’t agree. This approach is applicable to all types of relationships, not just romantic ones, according to Brach.
How to Develop a Growth Mindset
Dweck says that understanding the two mindsets can inspire change, but changing your thought patterns takes time and effort. The fixed mindset can compete with growth-oriented thinking, especially if your self-esteem is based on fixed beliefs about your abilities.
Dweck warns that changing your mindset may feel like losing your sense of self, but ultimately the growth mindset allows you to be authentic and reach your full potential without constant self-judgment.
Mindset Begins With Values
To change your mindset, examine if your values support a growth mindset. In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson emphasizes that our thoughts and actions stem from our values. Healthy values have three criteria, two of which align with a growth mindset.
Firstly, they’re fact-based, rooted in concrete and provable facts. Secondly, they’re constructive, benefiting both you and those around you. A growth mindset is constructive by pushing you to improve yourself. Lastly, they’re within your control, not relying on external factors. Negative values include power, fame, and fixed-mindset values such as talent and intelligence, which rely on being born with them.
Begin Adjusting Your Mindset
To achieve a growth mindset, Dweck suggests following these steps:
- Acknowledge that you have fixed-mindset beliefs and do not accept the negatives that come with it.
- Create a fixed-mindset persona, identify its triggers, and give it a name to remind you that this is not who you want to be.
- Confront your fixed mindset when it appears and remind yourself that mistakes and failures are opportunities to learn and grow.
To counter your fixed-mindset thoughts, you can meet your fixed-mindset persona with compassion and acceptance, similar to how Buddha dealt with Mara in the parable of Radical Acceptance. Greet its arguments about your limitations with respect and conviction, and eventually, your personal “Mara” will exhaust itself and leave you in peace.