How our mindset determines our life
A growth mindset is a way of thinking that goes against determinism. It focuses less on the person but more on the work they do. In this way, a perspective of growth mindset always looks towards improvement instead of a person’s self-imposed limitations.
In India, there is a saying that “we should not appreciate a person but the work that a person does.”
The core idea behind that saying is that when we appreciate the person, what we are actually doing is appreciating the ego. When we appreciate the work a person does, we are encouraging positive behavior.
Dr. Carol Dweck, a researcher at Stanford University coined the terms growth mindset and a fixed mindset. She describes the two in great detail in her book Mindset, The New Psychology of success.
Dr. Carol is famous for the extraordinary achievements of her class of kindergarten that achieved a 95 percentile on a national scale. She is also an elected member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and of the National Academy of Sciences.
She received the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association in 2011.
In the 1980s American psychologists noticed that drug addicts had low self-esteem. They thought that by instilling high self-esteem they would be able to prevent drug addiction, teenage pregnancies, and criminal tendencies.
The government at the time ran with that idea and thus the students from a young age were treated delicately so that their self-esteem does not get hurt.
The entire culture shifted to celebrating kids as special and distributing trophies for everything. It was a massive failure. Promoting self-esteem instead caused a frail character and a fixed mindset.
It was later found later that people with high self-esteem became bullies, rapists, and gang members. It was apparent that the focus on promoting self-esteem in kids was a mistake.
What is a Fixed mindset
The focus on self-esteem made people grow up in a fixed mindset. What is a fixed mindset you might ask?
A fixed mindset is when people believe that their qualities and skills are fixed traits and thus cannot change.
They believe that people are born with talent and that talent, not effort is most important for the success of an individual.
What fixed mindset leads to
1)People with a fixed mindset try to look smart instead of being smart.
2)They avoid challenges
3)They can’t persevere in the face of obstacles and give up easily
4)See effort as pointless
5)Can’t handle criticism of any kind
6) Often feel threatened by the success of other individuals
What is a Growth Mindset
A growth mindset is when people believe that their intelligence is a factor of the effort they put in. Hence, learning skills through hard work is what is most important for the success of an individual.
A growth mindset encourages patience and persistence in people. People with a growth mindset achieve much better results than people that view the world with a fixed mindset since they keep learning and look at obstacles as opportunities to improve.
What growth mindset leads to
1)People with a growth mindset have a desire to learn.
2)They embrace challenges instead of avoiding them
3)Keep persisting when they face obstacles and view failure as a learning opportunity
4)They view efforts as a path to improvement and mastery
5)They look proactively to constructive criticism and accept it easily
6)They learn from the success of others instead of being threatened by it
Powering through challenges is important
There are people that are born with some natural abilities and thus they might have an advantage over other people. However, due to results coming their way easily they can more often than not find themselves trapped in a fixed mindset.
People that work hard and improve over time through facing adversities and overcoming challenges are much more likely to cultivate a growth mindset.
Thus, it is important for us to go out of our way to take on challenging tasks that demand us to improve to succeed.
When we do that and are able to cultivate a growth mindset and are much more likely to find pleasure in the process of learning and improving.
Instead of seeing results as indicators of success, we would see our improvements as a measure of success.
Thus, our setbacks, instead of crushing our morale would be a source of motivation.
How your mindset is dynamic.
Our mindset might be different in different fields at different times. You might have a growth mindset in education but a fixed mindset in sports.
It is even possible that you will have a growth mindset in a field one day and a fixed mindset in the same field the next day.
The mindset you have on a certain topic at a certain time depends on the factors that surround you but also how you try perceiving things.
Being self-aware of the triggers that happen in your mind to a circumstance might alert you when you are slipping into a fixed mindset thinking.
It might be evident now, that people who believe that a growth mindset is something that is fixed, and to is achieved, are thinking from a point of view of a fixed mid-set.
Achieving a growth mindset is not a result but a process. It is a lifelong journey of constant improvement and introspection.
Standardized tests and their demerits, Faults in our education system
Dr. Carol says that standardized tests were brought in because while kids were being educated in the country, some kids were doing poorly and were being ignored.
To make sure that kids weren’t cheated out of a good education standardized tests were brought to schools nationwide.
The unintended consequences of those, however, were that schools became completely focussed on standardized tests. Teachers focused and taught only for the tests the entire year.
This made students think that the way they perform in the standardized tests represents how smart they are and how successful they will be in their life.
Dr. Carol argues that kids must be taught to love learning and embrace challenges. If students can learn to persist in the face of difficulties then the standardized test results would come as a by-product of that learning.
She says Finland is a good example of this as their teachers aren’t focussed on the tests but only on how they can teach better. Education thus, should not be about the results but instead about learning.
If you are learning to code then the objective should not be to get a certificate. The objective should be to understand how to write code. If you go to Spanish language classes, the reward should be the ability to speak Spanish after the classes are over.
How to find what your mindset is
There are triggers in our minds of the fixed mindset way of thinking. When you face a difficult task, do you think to yourself that you might not perform well and other people might see the flaws you have?
When you face a setback, do you think that you are not good in your field and cannot improve?
Do you feel defensive when you face criticism? The thoughts you have during those times reveal the mindset you have. Say a friend got a promotion; do you feel threatened by his progress?
You need to be mindful of how you are feeling during such circumstances and then try to think about what your thoughts would have been if you had a growth mindset.
How we trigger a fixed mindset in other people
The way we talk to people might also trigger ways of fixed mindset thinking. Say, you tell your kid that he is very smart after he scores well in an exam.
He might relate the test numbers from being smart and thus enter into a fixed mindset. Their life becomes more about deserving the title of smart instead of improvement of their skill.
Let us say you tell someone that you are so talented, you got selected without working. They start believing that if they work too hard they might not be talented.
This rhetoric conveys triggers in other people about what a smart or talented person may be. They might begin to believe subconsciously that smart people never make mistakes, and smart people do not have to work hard.
Thus, it is important to phrase our conversations that promote a growth mindset. Instead of saying you are so smart to score well we may say that you studied hard and focused on learning the basics, which is why you scored well.
The conversations should be focussed around the process and learning rather than results and goals.
Growth mindset in business
Dr. Carol says that the culture of a company is rooted in either a growth or a fixed mindset. Companies might give lip service to being a growth mindset company that focuses on innovation and learning.
However, the incentive structure in the company, as well as the way they deal with the failures of employees, reveals the true nature of the company.
There is a remarkable consensus usually when employees are asked to identify if their company is one with growth or a fixed mindset.
The companies that cultivated a growth mindset made their employees feel as if they were more empowered and felt a connection with their organization.
However, the employees from a company that had a fixed mindset have a culture of smugness and of defending power and position. Such a culture inhibited innovation and progress.
For a company to have a growth mindset, Companies need to cultivate an environment that encourages it.
How companies can cultivate a Growth Mindset
1)Present skills as learnable
2)Value learning and persistence instead of talent.
3)Give feedback that encourages learning and growth
4)Present managers as mentors
How can you cultivate a growth mindset in yourself
In her amazing Ted Talk, Dr. Carol reveals the power of Yet. I highly recommend that you watch it here.
If you can’t watch it yet however here is what she advocates for. No matter what obstacles you are facing presently where you are coming up short of the result. Think in terms of not yet.
The power of thinking not yet is that it encourages you to keep striving for improvement rather than admitting defeat outright.
So here are the few steps we can take in our lives
- Focus more on the process-oriented way of thinking. In every task that you do instead of thinking about the results, think about hard work, strategy, and perseverance.
- Push yourself out of your comfort zone. The more you have to stretch and adapt to complete your tasks the easier growth mindset thinking will come to you.
- Learn from those that are better. Instead of feeling threatened by the people that are better than us we should look towards them for areas of improvement. When we do that, we become more skilled in our pursuits as well as more collaborative. This also saves us a lot of time as we do not have to re-invent the wheel.
This week try to meditate on all the areas of your life where you have a fixed mindset. Can you reinterpret your circumstances differently?
The positive thing about it is that once you can cultivate a growth mindset way of thinking in one area of your life it will be much easier to bring it in other areas of your life. It is the compound effect in play that we talk more about in our blog here.
This will also help you escape the feeling of stagnation and being stuck in crucial areas of your life be it your job or your relationship etc. However, if you still feel stuck and don’t know which direction you want to take, we urge you to explore what your callings are.
We provide a free ebook called The perfect beginning that might help you in finding those callings.
Well, that’s all for this post. Have a good day and a good life.