Do you ever wonder why some very smart people don’t live up to their potential? Maybe you even include yourself in this category. Some scientists propose that underachieving may come down to mindset.
Mindset is “an established set of attitudes held by someone,” says the Oxford American Dictionary. It turns out, however, that a set of attitudes needn’t be so set, according to Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford.
Dweck proposes in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, (2006) that everyone has either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. According to this accomplished researcher and Stanford professor, we have the power to shift our mindset from one that barely gets us by to one whereby we thrive.
Open and Closed Mindsets
Everyone has two basic mindsets: open to growth, or closed and fixed.
- One mindset is open to learning and changing, believing one can always do better.
- The fixed mindset is entrenched in the belief that natural talents and abilities predetermine success.
With an open mindset, people believe they can always learn more, do more, and improve. They are confident, yet humble enough to work harder to expand their potential. They accept criticism as important feedback, not as a personal insult.
With a closed mindset, people believe success is based on their innate talents; thus, they needn’t work hard. They think their abilities are set in stone: either they have them or they don’t. They must prove themselves over and over again, trying to look smart and accomplished at all costs.
Mindset Motivates Behavior
When you have a fixed mindset you:
- Want to look smart (which means you avoid challenges and avoid the possibility of failure)
- Get defensive
- See effort and hard work as fruitless and not worth it
- Do not listen to criticism (it makes you feel attacked)
- Ignore useful or even positive feedback
- Feel threatened and envious when others enjoy success
- Give up too early, plateau, and never reach your potential
With a growth mindset you always have a desire to learn and improve, so you tend to:
- Embrace challenges
- Persist in the face of setbacks
- See effort and hard work as a necessary path to mastery
- Learn from criticism and often seek out others’ opinions
- Find lessons and inspiration in the success of others
When you adopt a growth mindset you reach ever higher levels of achievement. You’re not afraid of risks because they’re part of the learning and growing process.