Growth Mindset: The Key to Continued Success
Children are born curious, but these same kids often grow up to become hesitant adults who are often unwilling to try anything new. A few people seem to escape this phenomenon associated with “growing up” and continue to develop their talent and potential Why is it that some of us are reluctant to attempt something new while others view challenges as an opportunity to grow?
For a very long time, learning capabilities have been linked to fixed or inborn traits, such as IQ. These fixed traits decided how easily and quickly one can learn new information. A person with a high IQ was assumed to be someone who would be eager to learn new things. However, this isn’t reflected in reality. Many notable examples exist of people who had average IQs but still achieved tremendous success. Richard Feynman, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1965, had an IQ of 125. Julia Robinson, a famous mathematician, had an IQ of 98. At the same time, there is no dearth of people with a very high IQ but only mediocre accomplishments.
Carol Dweck, in her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” has described how the “mindset” of a person is a much better indicator of their motivation and success. Our "mindset" is how we view our intelligence and learning capabilities. Dweck found that people either exhibit a “fixed” or a “growth” mindset, and this makes all the difference in how much success they achieve.
A person with a "fixed mindset” view themselves as a product of some fixed variables. To them, their performance is because of their innate capability – a trait which is fixed and can’t be altered. They attribute a lot of their success to their talent and value the “ease” with which they can do a task. Any activity that is challenging – that takes time and effort - threatens their very belief of how capable they are. It is no surprise then that they only want to engage in activities that they are good at and shy away from anything that is new and challenging.
In contrast to this, individuals who view their learning capabilities as changeable – as something that can be “grown” through effort and deliberate practice - have a "growth mindset". They expect to be able to do more as they learn more. So they approach a challenging task with openness and an attitude to learn. Not only are they okay with failures and mistakes, but they also view these as an essential part of learning. Mistakes are realized, analyzed and readdressed and reviewed again in a feedback loop till the desired end result is achieved. They also have the resilience to persist through ambiguous stretches where an answer or a path is not obvious.
It’s interesting to note that a person can have different mindsets around different things. Also, one’s mindset is dynamic and ever changing. Sadly, many adults, who possess a growth mindset, don’t often end up passing it on to their children or peers. The good news, however, is that anybody can learn to have a growth mindset! Wouldn’t it be phenomenal if parents, teachers, mentors, managers, etc. can all model it and encourage it? Details on how to develop a growth mindset will be discussed in a later post.