Fixed and Growth Mindsets

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Do you think that your ability is relatively fixed, or do you believe that you can improve your ability no matter where it is currently? Is success about proving that you are skilled, or about learning a new skill? If you picked the first answer, you are exemplifying the fixed mindset: the belief that skills, ability, intelligence, and any number of other factors are set and unchanging. If you picked the second answer, you are demonstrating a growth mindset. People with the growth mindset tend to think that success is a validation of their effort and that failure is a temporary setback that can be overcome, rather than a judgment of their innate inability.

Although it sounds amazing, research shows that whichever mindset you adopt is true, for you. In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (Amazon referral link), psychologist Carol Dweck compiles a number of studies demonstrating that the embrace of a growth mindset or a fixed mindset is one of the most important factors in our success in any endeavor. From professional athletes to business leaders to ordinary people in romantic and familial relationships, the people who adopted a growth mindset excelled in almost every metric imaginable.

The reason that adopting a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset is so significant is that your mindset shapes how every other event is interpreted. If you have a fixed mindset and you do poorly on a test (or contest, or project), you interpret that as evidence that you have failed. By contrast, success on a test is simply meeting the standard: you did what you were supposed to do. For fixed mindset people, every test becomes a new threat of falling short, and to cope with that pressure fixed mindset people will regularly procrastinate (so they can blame the failure on not having enough time), withdraw (so they can claim that they “could have” put in more effort and this result wasn’t a true reflection of their abilities), and refuse to practice (because what’s the point if your ability is set in advance?).

By contrast, growth mindset people are able to learn from their failures. Instead of seeing failure as a judgment of their character, they see it as an assessment of that particular project. A failed project can be learned from, unlike being a failure, which is almost impossible to change. Likewise, growth mindset people tend to credit their successes not to innate ability but to the effort that they put into the project. Is it any wonder that growth mindset people tend to be more willing to put in practice and thus actually get better faster?

If you want to change one thing that will make a huge difference in many areas of your life (including your WCS ability), the most important change might be to adopt a growth mindset.

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