Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset: Understanding the Difference
While the notion that naturally gifted people will tend to outperform their peers has been a cultural trope for generations, a number of psychologists are beginning to question the notion of innate capability as a predictor of success. One of the people most famous for questioning the validity of notions surrounding innate capability is Stanford researcher Carol S. Dweck.
Prizing Growth Over Talent
You may have heard Dweck's name mentioned in business circles in recent years; indeed, the author made a splash in 2006 with her bestselling book "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” and her ability to explain complex psychological concepts has made her a hit with readers across the globe.
So what are Dweck's conclusions about human capability, and why are so many people beginning to subscribe to the author’s idea of the "growth" mindset?
Can Changing Our Mindset Help Us to Succeed?
To wit, a "growth" mindset exists when a person believes that success is due to hard work rather than innate talent. In contrast to a "fixed" mindset, wherein individuals ascribe the success of others to innate giftedness, the growth mindset promotes an attitude of resilience in the face of challenges.
Indeed, in study after study, Dweck shows that people who believe that they have a fixed level of intelligence tend to give up on tasks soon after experiencing difficulties. Moreover, individuals who are praised for their intelligence after taking a test tend to perform poorly on further tests.
When the "Fixed" Mindset Goes Wrong
According to Dweck, this is because people who ascribe success to talent avoid taking risks in order to preserve their status as an intelligent person. To wit, if a person’s self-esteem is based on the belief that they are a gifted individual, they will also believe that failing at a task will mean that they are stupid.
Conversely, and regardless of IQ or "natural ability," people who are praised for working hard to succeed at a task tend to improve their performance at that task over time. To Dweck's mind, this is because individuals who ascribe success to effort and skill-building rather than to unalterable mental limitations tend to view mental roadblocks as challenges rather than as signs that they are incompetent.
So what can we learn from Dweck's central thesis about the growth mindset? To wit, if we ascribe the success of others to some sort of innate talent, we are far more likely to give up on our goals; conversely, if we believe that success comes as a result of concerted effort and skill-building, we'll be far more likely to push forward in our work even when we hit roadblocks.
For anyone who has ever struggled with a fear of failure, putting Dweck's theories into practice might just be a life-changing experience. Truly, that is goal-setting at its best!