Ever wonder why some people get excited about a new challenge while others respond with fear and even dread?
I have a friend who’s not bothered by failure, in fact, she almost looks forward to it. She’s the one I talk to when I have a new idea that scares me to death! As I tell her about it, I often focus on the risk and all the things that could go wrong, and I can usually count on her to say something like, “So, what’s the worst thing that could happen? You fail? Big deal. You’ll learn so much if you do, and what’s probably going to happen is that you’ll be successful!”
The excitement she displays is contagious- but it’s not just that I have a friend who gets excited for me- what brings me back to her, again and again, is her mindset. She has a mindset that allows her to try new things without feeling like her worth and value are on the line. As she talks about challenges, it’s clear that she takes her strength from the learning process rather than the result.
If learning is the goal, then failing or succeeding become less important. Trying new things, testing out new ideas and following your dreams aren’t so scary when failure is no longer a threat. In fact, learning, risking, and even failing are all part of growing. My friend’s mindset is focused on growth!
What is Mindset?
Your mindset reflects your beliefs relating to who you are, how smart you are, how creative you are, and how talented you are. Mindset is present in anything we think about our worth and our abilities and it is primarily responsible for whether we are optimistic or pessimistic
Our mindset influences how we handle decisions, face challenges and impacts how we look at ourselves. It also influences how we look at others.
Carol Dweck is the researcher responsible for defining “mindset”. She identified two ways that people look at their own attributes and abilities.
- “Fixed mindset” implies that we see our abilities and attributes as already “fixed” within us and not capable of being changed. For example, a “fixed mindset” regarding intelligence is that you were either born smart or you were not, therefore, no matter how hard you work or study, your achievement and success is more about “fixed” genes or attributes that cannot be changed, even with effort. Another way of saying it is: How you were born is how you will always be.
- “Growth mindset” implies that we can improve our talents, abilities, and attributes through practice, effort, and experience. A “growth mindset” believes that effort, practice, learning, and training all have an impact on accomplishment and goals, therefore even intelligence can be increased. With effort, you can actually change your traits.
People with a fixed mindset often focus more on measuring success, winning and achieving. People with a growth mindset focus more on the effort, the engagement and the benefits of the growing and learning experience.
There is a reason why this might seem like new information to you!
Brain science has helped researchers make this leap from a “fixed” view of our intelligence and abilities to a “growth” view of our intelligence and abilities. They have discovered that the brain is actually capable of changing and growing in response to new information or sensory stimulation. This is called neuroplasticity and it means that our intelligence and abilities are definitely not fixed. Our brains are built with the capacity to learn and change.
Why does it matter what kind of mindset you have?
Research has shown that having a growth mindset is connected to higher levels of well-being and resiliency as well as higher levels of actual achievement. People with a growth mindset have a greater ability to focus on how things went right so they can replicate success. It also allows for permission to fail and then try again.
A growth mindset sees mistakes and failures as part of the learning process. This is why I go to my friend with the growth mindset when I feel stuck in a fixed mindset. It is nearly impossible to take risks and try new things when limited by a fixed mindset. Often it is just a quick conversation that helps me recognize the stuck thinking and shift over to focus on growth. Truly, it’s a liberating experience!
Why is it important to know this and teach it to our families?
Having a fixed mindset is a recipe for many negative things most of us want to avoid in life.
Depression, anxiety, procrastination, insecurity, avoidance, withdrawal and poor self-esteem are all linked to having a fixed mindset.
A fixed mindset usually leads us to:
- Deal in absolutes—either we are good at something or we are not–there is no opportunity for improvement. Either we succeed or we don’t.
- Judge ourselves based upon our output. We judge our success against an ideal goal or compare our success with others. There’s no opportunity for learning or growth.
While there are some benefits to focusing on producing an end result (like a grade, or a win), more often than not, it produces a highly critical, perfection-oriented ideal that is very difficult to maintain. In addition to this, the most important part of achievement is quite overlooked.
Anyone who has climbed a mountain understands the value in actually making the climb. Yes, the view from the top is amazing, but it was the struggle to get there that makes the experience empowering. Achievement, tenacity, and grit, making mistakes and learning from them—all of these attributes are the core components of a growth mindset. These attributes are also the core components of being successful at virtually anything you do.
Here are some things to consider when choosing your mindset!
1. A growth mindset focuses on the process rather than the product—noting the challenges, the learning curves and even the failures as the most important part of the journey. Success is found in the process of learning, growing and strengthening rather than in the result.
2. Both fixed and growth mindset enjoy the success of achievement, but only a growth mindset allows acceptance and enjoyment of the process. A fixed mindset sees effort and mistakes as signs of personal inadequacy and failure.
3. A growth mindset embraces our inherent imperfection and allows room for making mistakes, which then allows room for trying new things and gaining skills with time, practice and effort.
If you study the lives of those who have reached great goals, discovered innovative solutions to world challenges, and have reached a high level of personal performance, you’ll see that it was having a growth mindset that allowed them to rise above the challenges along their respective journies to success.
What a great model for all of us to follow!
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