In one world, effort is a bad thing. It, like failure, means you’re not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn’t need effort. In the other world, effort is what makes you smart or talented.
What if your true learning potential was unknown, even unknowable, at best? What if it were impossible to foresee what you could accomplish with a few years of passion, toil, and training? According to Stanford psychologist this isn’t some hypothetical situation, dependent on any manner of factors from genes to environment. It’s a mindset. And it’s one you can cultivate at any point in life.
A “growth mindset,” is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a tendency to believe that you can grow. A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, a growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.
Believing that your qualities are carved in stone creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character, well then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics. The fixed mindset can negatively impact all aspects of your life.
I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves in [a learning setting], in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?” But when you start viewing things as mutable, the situation gives way to the bigger picture.
This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments, everyone can change and grow through application and experience. This is important because it can actually change what you strive for and what you see as success. By changing the definition, significance, and impact of failure, you change the deepest meaning of effort.
In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. Tomorrow I will share 25 simple ways to develop your growth mindset.
Peace and Love, Jim