Have you ever wondered why some highly “talented” people never reach their potential? Or have been amazed when seemingly “ordinary” people achieve extraordinary things?
Professor Carol Dweck proposes that the key isn’t talent or ability; it’s whether a person looks at their ability as something inherent that needs to be demonstrated, or as something that can be developed and cultivated. In short, it is about a person’s mindset.
Growth and fixed mindset Mindsets are beliefs about yourself and your most basic qualities, such as your intelligence, talents, and personality. People have been found to generally subscribe to one of two mindsets:
In this mindset our personal traits and qualities are “carved in stone” and nothing can be done to change them. Skills, talents, and capabilities are considered to be predetermined and finite. Talent or natural ability alone is seen to create success – without effort.
“I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. ” Michael Jordan
In this mindset our traits and qualities are things that can be developed through dedication and effort. Qualities like intelligence are seen as a starting point; however, success comes as a result of effort, learning, and persistence. Accomplishment is seen to be achieved through passionate practice, perseverance and learning.
Where does our Mindset come from?
Mindsets are created in childhood and extend into adulthood. Role models such as parents and teachers are instrumental in the development of either a growth or fixed mindset. Well-intended messages of praise from influential figures can send a judgmental message, as opposed to a developmental message. A child that works hard must be recognized, regardless of the outcome. Alternatively, a child that puts in little effort but still succeeds should be given a more challenging task, as opposed to praising their ease of success. Children, and adults, should be taught to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, value effort, and keep on learning.
How does our Mindset affect us?
The fixed mindset focuses on judging when interpreting events, e.g., this means, “I am a loser” or “my partner is selfish”. Whilst the growth mindset focuses on the implications of events for learning and constructive action, e.g., “What can I learn from this?” or “How can my partner and I do this better?” Research demonstrates that each mindset leads to predictable patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, as seen below.
Can you change your Mindset?
While it requires effort, it is definitely possible to change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, here’s one way to do it:
Step 1: Learn to hear your fixed mindset voice. It may say things like “Why bother trying – I’ll probably fail and look like a fool” or “You don’t have the talent for this”.
Step 2: Recognise that how you interpret challenges, setbacks, and criticism is your choice. You can choose to interpret them through a fixed mindset or through a growth mindset.
Step 3: Practice using a growth mindset voice, e.g., saying things like “I’m not sure I can do it now, but I can learn to with time, effort and persistence”.
Step 4: Take action. Act in accordance with your growth mindset voice by embracing challenges, seeing effort as the path to mastery, learning from and persisting in the face of setbacks and criticism, and finding inspiration from the success of others.
- Dweck, C. (2007). The secret to raising smart kids. Scientific American Mind, 18(6), 36-43.
- Dweck, C. S. (2010). Mind-Sets. Principal Leadership.
- Mueller, C. M., & Dweck, C. S. (1998). Praise for intelligence can undermine children’s motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(1), 33.
- Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Randsom House.
- Mindsets, The Mind Room