Imagine you’re attending a lecture;
The teacher asks a question and you think you know the answer. You think you know, but you’re not 100% confident.
What do you do: do you raise your hand or wait for someone else to answer the question?
Many students choose to sit quietly. Some of them know they know the answer, others are not sure. They are all afraid of making a mistake.
They feel their heartbeat going faster and the anxiety doesn’t allow them to take action. If you’re one of these students, then you have a fixed mindset.
If you raise your hand and you speak up even if you’re not 100% sure of the answer, then you’re not afraid to make a mistake. Congrats; you are thinking like a leader.
This is the attitude of the new generation of risk-takers, the one that Stanford psychologist Carol S. Dweck explores in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
Through her research Dweck found that the impression we have about ourselves can belong to two different mindsets:
1. Fixed Mindset
The one that assumes we can’t change our intelligence, creative ability, and character in a meaningful way.
The students in a fixed mindset have one goal on their mind: never look dumb.
They believe that skills and intelligence are fixed traits and they don’t believe that any efforts to improve these aspects of their personality would result with success.
2. Growth Mindset
The one that manifests the will for challenge and sees failure as a chance for growth instead of proof of un-intelligence.
The students in a growth mindset understand that the only way to develop their skills and talents is through effort and persistence. They believe they can get smarter if they make the effort.
People manifest one of these two mindsets from a very early age. Our attitude towards risk, success, and failure determines not only our potential for professional success, but our chance for happiness as well.
This is a book worth reading. Let’s see if we can awaken your interest in it by exploring these two mindsets a bit further.
The Mindsets: Which One Is Better?
When you read the brief description of the two mindsets, you probably thought the growth mindset was obviously the better one. It is. The trick is: we don’t always have it.
You probably assumed that you can have only one mindset. In reality, people have a fixed mindset in some areas and a growth mindset in others. For example, you might be in a growth mindset regarding your family values.
You believe that with lots of effort, you can become a better person and make people feel happier when they are around you. Regarding math, however, you might be in a fixed mindset. You’re thinking;
“I was never good at math; I can’t get it no matter how hard I try.”
Let’s explore the characteristics of the two mindsets in different situations, so we’ll understand them a bit better:
• You have to write an essay, but you are not sure you will write it well enough.
In a fixed mindset, you would probably do everything to get a high score, even if that means cheating, or ordering an essay at essay writing websites.
In a growth mindset, you are more interested in learning for learning rather than studying for the grade. You find motivation to learn as much as possible, and you solve the test as well as you can. If the score is not that great, you learn more to improve it.
Dweck explains this in her book: “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better?”
A student in a fixed mindset wants to prove their worth with a good grade, and they cheat to get it. A student in a growth mindset constantly tries to get better and does not hide the deficiencies.
• The teacher asks who wants to be the team leader of a very challenging project.
A student in a fixed mindset doesn’t feel fit for the task. They are afraid to take the responsibility for an entire team. A student in a growth mindset, on the other hand, is willing to take on the challenge and does everything to succeed as a team leader.
• The college you apply for also shows what mindset you have about that particular issue.
If you opt for a less selective college and you pick courses that don’t challenge you, you’re in a fixed mindset.
If, on the other hand, you apply to the most selective colleges and you make a commitment to succeed no matter what obstacles you face, you’re in the mindset that determines growth.
Why Do We Need a Pat on the Back?
It’s no secret: people do need approval. We care about what others think about us. We need that pat on the back. When this need to appear good in everyone’s eyes is extreme, it pushes us towards social anxiety.
That’s a state when we constantly see ourselves through the expectations of others.
We see their expectations as too great and our abilities as too low. The gap is huge. As a result, we get blocked in social situations and we prefer staying quiet just because we’re afraid of embarrassment.
When you’re in a fixed mindset about something, you want to get other people’s praise. You need their approval to feel good about yourself. You are valuing yourself according to the value other people give you.
If you catch yourself in such a mindset, keep reminding yourself: you’re not stuck in it. You can move towards the growth mindset if you only challenge yourself.
Think: how do you like you?
Changing the Mindset… How, Exactly?
Through her research, Carol Dweck realized that praise pushed students into the fixed mindset. They showed that attitude by rejecting challenging tasks they could learn from. They decided not to expose their flaws and question their talents.
When the students were praised for effort, however, 90% of them chose to face the challenging task, seeing it as an opportunity for growth.
This teaches us a good lesson: we can shift our mindset if we appreciate the journey rather than the results.
Here are few pieces of advice that will help you move towards a growth mindset:
1. Develop Sound Self-Acceptance
This is not an easy thing to do. The first step towards developing a growth mindset is convincing yourself that you should start doing what feels right to you. There is no need to get the approval of others to feel good enough about your results.
Start keeping a journal where you’ll acknowledge not only the results, but your efforts as well. Write about the small steps you made and every little challenge you took.
Write what felt like the right decision at that moment. With time, you’ll start making choices because they feel right for you.
2. Go to the Gym
Wait, what? How can going to the gym bring you to a growth mindset?
Just think about it: a fitness routine will convince you that you are capable of achieving great goals. You will see yourself changing day after day. Not just changes in your body, but your mindset will change, too.
You will develop confidence that growth is possible to achieve. Moreover, you’ll learn how to appreciate the journey itself.
3. Take That Challenging Course
Just sign up for it! Don’t worry about the grade; it’s great as long as you pass. And you will pass if you make an effort to learn for the sake of learning.
Seek for the inspiration. It will open a world of knowledge for you. With every single thing you learn, you are pushing the limits. You are growing.
4. Practice Saying what You Think
When you’re in a fixed mindset, you’re the master of telling people what they want to hear, or not saying anything at all in certain situations. To move towards the growth mindset, you should practice saying what you think.
That doesn’t mean you should start insulting people. It only means gaining confidence to express yourself in a truthful manner. You’ll get better at it with practice.
5. Don’t Blame Others for Your Failures
In her book, Dweck explains that when people with a fixed mindset talk about the conflicts they’ve been through, they tend to assign blame. They often blame their partners, but they also have a tendency to blame themselves.
When you’re in the growth mindset, you can acknowledge your partner’s flaws without blaming them for the conflict. You see communication as a solution.
Are You Ready to Grow?
Dweck explores these two mindsets in detail, so you should certainly get the book if you’re interested in this issue.
This is what you should definitely do: try!
Remember: you were not born with a fixed capacity. You were born with a potential, and it’s up to you to take that leadership potential to ultimate growth.
Are you thinking like a leader? Leave a comment below.