Have you ever heard that we all have two ways in which we approach life’s decisions? Psychological research has shown and proven that we have two ways in which we think. We use either the growth mindset or the fixed mindset.
What is a Growth Mindset?
“The growth mindset is the belief that your intelligence is not dormant and can grow through daily practice and training. It is the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. One can always change and grow through application and experience. The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even or especially when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives. With a growth mindset issues or problems that come your way don’t bring you down. They make you want to learn and grow from it. Become better.”
This is a snippet of a book written by Carol S. Dweck “Mindset”.
Every situation we go through especially the ones that challenge us and start poking on our ego, can be used to learn from. We can be offended by it, get angry or, we can make the decision to change our mindset and use it to learn something and get better. In her research, she says, “You have a choice. Mindsets are just beliefs. They are powerful beliefs, but they are just some things in your mind and you can change your mind”.
I find this so powerful because we have the control and the choice to determine what we want and how we choose to grow as individuals. As Zig Ziglar says “We don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges”.
What is a Fixed Mindset?
The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset. This is when one believes that they are naturally smart or talented and do not need to add any effort in what they do. Because, you know, it comes naturally. They believe that when you do put effort into anything e.g. as a student when you have to study harder than normal and put more effort, or a sports person, where people believe it’s all about having the natural talent and effort; is for people who lack that true talent.
Someone with a fixed mindset measures their potential by testing it and getting high scores. Then it makes them feel special, which is fine. But this feeling of being special is bad when you think you are better than others. This then limits your growth and your ability to learn because you think you have already reached your full potential when this is not the case. So, one stops themselves from getting better or even from improving. Also in a fixed mindset, failures define the person. Once they fail at something they believe that is who they are. Which is far from the case.
In the book “Mindset” Carol Dweck says:
“From the point of view of the fixed mindset, effort is only for people with deficiencies. And when people already know they are deficient, they have nothing to lose by trying. But if your claim to fame is not having any deficiencies- if you are considered a genius, a talent, or a natural -, then you have a lot to lose. Effort can reduce you”.
How to Apply This in Real Life?
Now, these two mindsets can be naturally achieved in some aspects of your life or you have to work on it. Like anything new you want to instill in your life, first you have to recognize the need for it, then work on it again and again. Personally, I grew up with the growth mindset for only one reason. I was not a naturally smart person. I didn’t get high scores in school by just by listening to the teacher. I consistently got bad grades. I had to change how I learned and how I approached my school work or I would have been kicked out. I realized I had to work harder than my classmates, who I thought were naturally smart. So instead of accepting my fate as “a dumb one” I just started putting more effort into it. Only then did my grades go higher.
As life moved on and I went to university and started working I realized I created a habit of putting extra effort in everything I did. I quickly realized that when I failed or did well, it was not because I was “dumb”, I just needed to work harder on it. I have now applied this in my life where I am continuously searching on how to improve myself. Because in life if you don’t grow your mind and your spirit, then your just dead. Then you are just living the day to day waves and not helping yourself and the people around you.
What Can We Learn From This?
- Having a growth mindset means understanding that intelligence can be developed.
Your mind can be feed, your mind can be exercised just like going to the gym. But only consistency will give you the muscles you are looking for. I remember 4 years ago when I picked up a book (after not reading anything for a loooong time) and after reading it my head hurt. It was like “Damn, so that’s what adding information into my brain feels like”. I knew I was dusting the cobwebs and shaking things up.
- Having a growth mindset leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to embrace challenges.
When faced with something new that you still have to figure out, should not be seen as a bad thing anymore. It’s just a new challenge which should be embraced.
- When faced with a setback, keep pushing.
At this point, and only then, do we find out how strong we really are. Life has a way to help us learn a lesson and its always through a hard situation. I remember someone saying, you have to pull your hand back to be able to throw the stone. That’s when you gather your moss.
- Learn from criticism:
I don’t know about you but this is the part I could do without. But in all honesty, that was the moment I learned the most. The ability to set your ego aside and put your learning gear on, knowing this is the only way you will improve, is empowering.
- Find lessons and inspiration in the success of others:
This to me is the best way to measure where I am in the lesson I want to learn. I love watching people who have achieved what I desire. This way, I can see if I’m following the right path and using the right tools If Brené Brown talks about a book she learned from, I search for it. When Tony Robbins says “This is my morning routine to get me into focus” I am there testing it and finding out what’s so great about it. Successful people leave clues in everything they do. We just have to look for them and follow them.
I believe the real point of all this is to be aware of which mindset we are in and then deal appropriately. Catch that limiting thought, recognize it and work on changing it. No one says its’s easy, but if we don’t invest any effort on improving ourselves, no one will.