Are you the kind of person who prefers to do things you are an expert in or the kind of person who seeks a challenge? In an experiment on performance and achievement, researchers studied how 4-year-olds dealt with this choice. In the study, young children were given puzzles to do. After successfully completing the first puzzle, each child was given a choice: redo that first jigsaw puzzle or try a more difficult one. If you were a child, what would you do: a puzzle you already solved and could solve again or an even harder one you might fail at?
In a second experiment at the University of Hong Kong where all the classes are in English, incoming students who were not skilled in English were also given a choice: if a course was offered to improve English skills, would you take it or not? If you were a second language student who had already been accepted into your major, would you take an additional skills course or hope the language skills that got you in the university got you through the college classes?
In each study, the subjects chose the easy path or more challenging path based on their mindset. We face similar choices every day: stay safe and go with what you know or learn something new and risk failure. How you answer this question says a lot about your level of achievement.
It’s all about mindset
Sometimes the only thing separating you from achieving your goals is your mindset. Your mindset controls how hard you work, how well you lead, and if you’ll take opportunity when it comes along.
If you read Carol Dweck’s groundbreaking book, Mindsets, you already know your success in school, work, and relationships is tied to your mindset. First published in 2006 (and updated in 2016), Dweck’s book uprooted the idea our intelligence was fixed or our abilities were innate.
The truth is we can all become better if we simply believe we can become better and then work at it.
So what’s your mindset?
Dweck’s research revealed we express two different mindsets: fixed and growth. And what mindset we choose to express determines how well we achieve something.
To get the basic gist of your mindset, answer the questions below (or take her mindset quiz online).
A) Which statement do you agree with more?
- Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t change very much.
- You can always substantially change how intelligent you are.
B) Which statement do you identify with more?
- You are a certain kind of person, and there is not much that can be done to really change that.
- No matter what kind of person you are, you can always change substantially.
If you identified with choice 1 in either question, you probably have a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset means you believe your intelligence, abilities, and/or personality are all fixed qualities you are born with and cannot be changed by effort.
If you have a fixed mindset, you believe you are as intelligent as you are ever going to be, as skilled in sports or knitting as you’ll ever be, or as generous or stubborn as the day you were born. If you do well at something, you think you are talented in it. If you do poorly, you think you were not meant to do it.
If you identified with choice 2 answers, you probably have a growth mindset. A growth mindset means you believe with effort and time you can become better at something or learn to do anything.
With a growth mindset, if you do poorly on a math test, you don’t think you are bad at math; instead, you study harder for the next exam or do more practice problems to get better. If you are told you are not very sociable, you don’t think, “Well that’s just the way I am, so screw them.” Instead, you buy a book, take a course, or hire a coach to develop more social skills to get along better with people.
Recognize your mindset
The truth is we express both mindsets at one time or another in our life. But the key to your continued success in love, life, and business is being aware of these two mindsets and working on expressing a growth mindset. Some days you’ll find you have a fixed mindset about something. You’ll find yourself making excuses, such as I’m just not a good swimmer, history student, sales person, or public speaker.
But you have to remember Yo Yo Ma was not born playing the cello, Lebron James had to practice every day to compete with the best teams, and Richard Branson overcame many setbacks before he became a billionaire. For any person who you see doing something easily, it once was difficult for them and they made lots of mistakes. But they were also willing to learn from failure.
If you find yourself having those fixed mindset moments about a task, ask yourself these questions. How can I do this? Where can I improve? Who can I ask to get help? Once you open yourself up to a growth mindset, you can always find ways to become better at anything.
Changing your mindset won’t guarantee financial success or fame, but a growth mindset will put you in a position to have more control over the outcomes in your life. So if you want to be more successful, change your mind.