Have you ever wondered what the difference is between those who achieve extraordinary results and everyone else? Whatever the endeavor, whether it is in academics, athletics, or business, you can find many examples of individuals who have achieved great levels of success, and you can find a lot more examples of those who didn’t.
Clearly, there are many distinctions. But if you study closely, you will learn that, at its core, there is one primary distinction that determines all of the rest of the differences. This main distinction is mindset.
Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., is one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation and is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. She has done profound scientific studies and has discovered two types of mindsets. One is called a fixed mindset and the other is called a growth mindset. Dr. Dweck’s discovery of fixed and growth mindsets have shaped our understanding of learning. The difference between the two is the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. Those with the fixed mindset believe that their skills and abilities are a fixed, inherent part of their nature. On the other hand, those with the growth mindset believe that their skills come from hard work and can be improved upon.
This difference in belief causes a significant cascade of events to occur, which ultimately culminate in individual performance and results. For example, an individual with a fixed mindset will tend to avoid challenges, as this can lead to a perceived exposure of their weakness. Because their belief in skills being a fixed trait, they will tend to give up easily and not put forth effort to improve. Thus, they find that effort is unnecessary. The thought is that if skills are inherent, and there is something they are not talented at, putting forth the effort would be futile. On the other side of the same token, if it is something they are good at, then the belief is that if they are naturally good at it, then there is no need to put in the effort. This stifles growth on both ends of the spectrum. This mindset also determines how they respond to feedback and setbacks. Since the belief is that skills are fixed, those with the fixed mindset tend to get defensive when receiving feedback and take it personally. This is due to the fact that they perceive the feedback as being directed toward their inherent nature, rather than at their effort. They also tend to get discouraged with feedback and blame others, rather than focusing inward and improving upon themselves. Remember, this is because they believe that skills cannot be improved upon.
On the other hand, those with the growth mindset believe that their abilities are malleable, and can be improved upon. Instead of avoiding challenges and giving up easily, they tend to embrace challenges and persevere. They understand that challenges require growth and through persistent effort, their skills and abilities can grow to meet and overcome the challenge. They see effort as a necessary path to mastery. They respond positively to feedback and setbacks. They see feedback as useful. They view feedback as an opportunity to identify areas to improve upon. They understand setbacks as being a wake-up call to try harder, remembering that it is in their ability to perform better to persistence, determination, and focus.
So anytime you see someone at the top of their field, whatever it is, know that they are constantly improving themselves. This is the premise to life-long learning and constant improvement. In fact, the word kaizen is a Japanese term. It means continuous improvement of working practices and personal efficiency. After reading this, I have two questions to ask you. First, do you believe your abilities can grow? Second, are you learning and growing every day?