A mindset is a view of yourself and it leads to thoughts and actions that affects your perception and reaction about the world. In her book Mindset, American psychologist Carol Dweck explains two kinds of mindsets (fixed mindset & growth mindset) and how they affect people’s behaviors.
In this article I will try to explain these two mindsets and why adopting a growth mindset will help you gain happiness from learning, deal better with failure, even more, can help to fulfill your potential and live a mindful life.
Fixed mindset make us settle
In high school, I was pretty good at math and physics but bad at literature. After getting a low grade again in an exam, I said to myself, "Damn, I must have no talent in literature and language." And This is a typical "fixed mindset" in which I interpret failure as lack of intelligence or talent.
"In a fixed mindset", according to Carol Dweck, “people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.”
There are many different situations in which we may fall into a fixed mindset.
- When being challenged we tend to avoid it rather than embrace it and stretch ourselves out of our comfort zone.
- When facing obstacles we may treat a little failure as a waste of all the effort and give up all together. That's like being trapped by a grain of sand and then stoping going forward.
- When talking about effort we often envy the "gifted" or "talented" people rather than "hard working" ones. Maybe subconsciously we think efforts can not fill the gap between the "good" and "poor" talents.
- When getting criticism we struggle because we think the negative feedback of our performance is equal to the critique of our identity.
- When seeing success in others we feel jealous and threatened ignoring how long they have been working on it.
These are some feelings we may have in a fixed mindset. Now lets see another possibility of view about the same thing.
Growth mindset let us thrive
“In a growth mindset," said by Carol Dweck, "people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”
Just a single change of a belief can let you treat the same situations in a totally opposite way.
- Embrace challenges and find your new abilities or new interested fields rather than repeating yourself every day.
- Failure is not a sign of loser but a chance to learn why it doesn't work. Keep trying, keep failing, but fail better every time until success come to you.
- The "real" talent like Einstein or Newton is so rare and you need not to be one. The ultimate goal should be becoming the "best of yourself". Imagine you have been the best of yourself then you will not regret about who you would be.
- Remember to separate your performance and your identity. Ignore the meaningless criticism and accept the useful ones.
- Find lessons and inspirations from others' successes. You will get the similar result if you have the desperate desire and great effort too.
With this growth mindset you change your focus on proving yourself over and over again to learning from mistakes and becoming better and better.
Evidence from neuroscience
According to latest research in neuroscience we have some evidences to support the belief that our mind can truly grow throughout our whole life.
Contrary to most people’s thought, our brain is not a hard-wired circuit board. It’s actually very plastic and more like a reprogrammable computer. And the research has found that the connections within our brain still keep evolving (some may be strengthened, other may be weakened) throughout our entire life.
That means if you keep training your mind it will be shaped like what you want it to be. And both our intelligence and personality can be developed. There is nothing preventing you from learning new things, gaining wisdom, growing and becoming a better yourself.
How to foster growth mindset
Convinced? Here are some strategies you can use to develop a growth mindset.
- Remember the neuroscience facts. Your brain is not fixed and your mind can develop as well.
- Focus on process over the results. It's all about learning, improving, and the result is just a test grade of your effort not the goal.
- Use the wording "not yet". Replace the saying "I'm not good at writing." with "I'm not good at writing yet." "Not yet" will remind that you just have not put enough effort or right strategy into the work and you will get there at last.
These three techniques are the most important advices I want to share with you. Cultivating a growth mindset is a life-long journey but it is the fundamental element of success. If you want to dig deeper into this concept please read the book I mentioned in the beginning.
May the growth mindset be with you!