If you’re on social media, I’m sure you’ve seen inspirational memes. They tend to be a mixed pot- most are harmless and sappy whilst others give downright terrible advice. If you’re like me, when you see them you just keep scrolling through your news feed.
However, the quote above is more than social media click bait. It is something to live by. And don’t worry, if you’re still sceptical the rationale lies in science.
That meme is a quote from Carol Dweck. Aside from being a treasure trove of inspirational quotes, Dweck is a research psychologist at the University of Stanford, who has spent decades studying mindset and its impact on motivation and development. From her research, Dweck developed the idea of the fixed vs. growth mindset.
Have you ever heard the phrase “I’m just not good at that”? Have you ever said it yourself? I’m sorry to tell you, that is an example of a fixed mindset.
According to Dweck, a fixed mindset means that you believe your qualities are “carved in stone.” You think that everything from your intelligence to your personality is predetermined and unchangeable. Therefore, when you fail at something you blame it on what you see as an inherent limitation.
When you are in a fixed mindset you fear and avoid challenges. A challenge is something that could serve to prove your inadequacies or inabilities and cause you to fail. As a result, you only seek experiences that will reaffirm the abilities you already know you have.
This is kryptonite to success and achievement. Believing so strongly in natural ability deceives us into thinking that if we have an inborn ability for something, success will naturally follow. In other words, effort is not necessary for those with talent. However, as the growth mindset informs us, success is the result of hard work and perseverance.
If you have a growth mindset, your development is always in motion. This diagram illustrates some of the many differences between fixed vs. growth mindset.
Here are some tips to help you move into a growth mindset.
Aim to learn, don’t seek approval. We live in a goal minded society, therefore we set goals that will provide us with rewards instead of goals that are good in and of themselves. So next time you are given an assignment, try first and foremost to learn as much as you can about the topic, good grades will be the inevitable result.
Don’t accept the things you are bad at, try to get better at them. We all have an endless capacity to improve, so never label yourself as bad at anything. I’ve always been convinced that I am bad of maths. For me, it was always the hardest subject in school and I never got particularly good grades in it. However, I know that I am not ‘naturally’ inept at it, I just wasn’t putting in enough effort. I know this because on the rare occasions that I did study I actually did really well. It is only now that I understand that my intelligence wasn’t the problem, it was my mindset.
Cultivate as many interests as you can. Another problem with a fixed mindset is that it tells us that we are good at one thing (or a small amount of things). This can stop us from pursuing other things we are interested in or that we might be good at. So, if you’ve always wanted to write a book, try an acting class or learn how to surf, go for it!
Fixed mindsets are a problem in relationships too. Much like skills and intelligence, people tend to believe that if a relationship/friendship is right, it will happen easily. As Dweck warns
According to Dweck, those in a fixed mindset tend to see the flaws in themselves and those they’re close to as fixed and an intrinsic part of who they are. This is not true, people can always be better.
Don’t fear failure, see it as a chance to grow. We often run from challenges when we doubt that we will be able to overcome them. This is because we fear disappointing ourselves or exposing our weaknesses to others. Without challenge, we cannot learn and grow- so take up as many challenges as you can.
Every person as an infinite capacity to improve themselves intellectually and personally. Remember, we are not defined by who we are, we a defined by who we become. Always strive to be better.