In her 2006 book, ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’, Carol Dweck wrote that an individual’s success or failure in life has much to do with their perceptions of where ability/talent comes from. Those that believe intelligence and ability is largely innate are known to have a ‘fixed’ mindset; those who maintain that hard work, determination and a willingness to learn are the real keys to success have a ‘growth’ mindset.
And while someone might not be explicitly aware of their mindset, it can be recognised quite easily through their behaviour, most specifically in their reaction to failure. In the face of failure or criticism, a fixed mindset individual is more likely to recoil, taking it as a negative declaration of their abilities. However, someone with a growth mindset sees failure as an opportunity to learn and get better.
Dweck believes these two mindsets have a significant influence on almost every aspect of a person’s life. She says that those with a growth mindset are more likely to be successful and less stressed, therefore happier and more fulfilled.
The mere fact that you visited this website makes it very likely you have a growth mindset (if you’re not sure, you can do a basic assessment here). Entrepreneurs and business leaders could not be what they are without a growth mindset. In many ways, failure is key to success (at least your reaction to it is), and this goes hand-in-hand with resilience and a determination to learn from those failures and mistakes instead of letting them defeat you.
Your mindset is also decisive in creating good habits. A fixed mindset goes, “This behaviour is so deep set, I can’t change it,”; a growth mindset says, “With hard work and determination I can change my habits.” The growth mindset will break a bad habit by replacing it with a good one—signing up for a course, learning an instrument, training for a marathon or cycling race.
Let’s have a look at ten differences between a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset:
- “I’m either good at something or not.”
- “Failure means I should quit.”
- “This is too hard.”
- “Don’t criticise me.”
- “Your success makes me envious.”
- “I’m defined by my abilities.”
- “I give up.”
- “I did all my learning at university.”
- “Being rich will solve all my problems.”
- “I’m comfortable like this.”
- “If I apply myself, I can learn anything.”
- “What can I learn from this setback?”
- “Pushing myself makes me more resilient and teaches me about myself.”
- “Tell me where I’m going wrong so I can get better.”
- “I admire your success and am inspired by it.”
- “I’m defined by my perceptions and attitudes.”
- “If I keep pushing I will succeed, even if that success simply means knowing more about myself.”
- “I never stop learning. I read constantly and am engaged with myself and the world every day.”
- “Material, outward happiness is fleeting and illusive. Personal development and inner-happiness are what are meaningful and lasting.”
- “Challenging myself and confronting my fears helps me grow and find true fulfilment.”
It’s easy to slip into the fixed mindset because, on the surface, it seems like the less stressful way to live: accept that you’ll “never be good enough”, do the bare minimum to ensure you get a monthly paycheck, and spend your free time on the couch, binge-watching Netflix. Sure, you might have less stress and you’ll certainly be more ‘comfortable’, but in the long-run it’ll become apparent your life lacks meaning and purpose.
Someone with a growth mindset understands their abilities and their success (and indeed their happiness) are all defined and determined by one person only—themselves. And the excitement of this realisation moves them to keep exploring their limits and uncovering new abilities. I believe this mindset is perhaps the only way to achieve true contentment and meaningful success.
After all, when you look back on your life it won’t be the times you spent watching TV or having a lie-in that you remember; what’ll stand out are those moments when you did something that scared you a little, those times you stretched beyond yourself and didn’t quit, despite everything and everyone telling you to. It is in these moments you realise your potential is limitless.
This is your key to lifelong growth. Never stop exploring.