Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck has discovered a simple but ground-breaking idea: The Power of Mindset after decades of research. In her remarkably insightful book titled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck shares insight on the two main mindset: growth and fixed mindset.
A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.
People with fixed mindset spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success – without effort. When face with challenges that they can’t solve, they give up and admit defeat which is detrimental to their future efforts and leads to limited growth.
A “growth mindset,” thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.
People with growth mindset understand that their abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.
In fact, Dweck takes this stoic approach, writing: “in the growth mindset, failure can be a painful experience. But it doesn’t define you. It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from.”
With a growth mindset, people continually work to improve their skills, leading to greater growth and ultimately, success.
Related: Empowering Growth Mindset at Work
Transition: From Fixed Mindset to Growth Mindset
Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.
The good news is that you have a choice. “Mindsets are just beliefs,” Dweck explains. “They’re powerful beliefs, but they’re just something in your mind, and you can change your mind.”
If you have identified that you have a fixed mindset in a particular area of your life, you can shift the mindset to a growth mindset. Changing our beliefs can have a powerful impact according to the understanding of neuroscience and neuroplasticity.
However if your mindset has deeply rooted, you need effective strategies to uproot it over time.
Power of Yet
In the TED talk, Dweck shares the power of yet:
I heard about a high school in Chicago where students had to pass a certain number of courses to graduate, and if they didn’t pass a course, they got the grade “Not Yet.” And I thought that was fantastic, because if you get a failing grade, you think, I’m nothing, I’m nowhere. But if you get the grade “Not Yet” you understand that you’re on a learning curve. It gives you a path into the future.
“Not Yet” also gave me insight into a critical event early in my career, a real turning point. I wanted to see how children coped with challenge and difficulty, so I gave 10-year-olds problems that were slightly too hard for them. Some of them reacted in a shockingly positive way. They said things like, “I love a challenge,” or, “You know, I was hoping this would be informative.” They understood that their abilities could be developed. They had what I call a growth mindset. But other students felt it was tragic, catastrophic. From their more fixed mindset perspective, their intelligence had been up for judgment and they failed. Instead of luxuriating in the power of yet, they were gripped in the tyranny of now.
So what do they do next? I’ll tell you what they do next. In one study, they told us they would probably cheat the next time instead of studying more if they failed a test. In another study, after a failure, they looked for someone who did worse than they did so they could feel really good about themselves. And in study after study, they have run from difficulty. Scientists measured the electrical activity from the brain as students confronted an error. On the left, you see the fixed mindset students. There’s hardly any activity. They run from the error. They don’t engage with it. But on the right, you have the students with the growth mindset, the idea that abilities can be developed. They engage deeply. Their brain is on fire with yet. They engage deeply. They process the error. They learn from it and they correct it.
How we word things affects confidence, the words ‘yet’ or ‘not yet,’ “give people greater confidence, give them a path into the future that creates greater persistence.” We can change mindsets.