Dr. Carol Dwek and her team of researchers studied what the fundamental differences were between people who were successful and people who were not successful in life. Dwek identified one simple difference in perspective that is largely responsible for whether or not you find your way to the top. That characteristic is... mindset.
Dwek indicated that there are two basic mindsets. There is a fixed mindset, or someone who believes that their basic characteristics are set in stone and do not change. Things like their IQ, their abilities, and their skills in life don't change. In other words, they believe that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. The other side of that spectrum is the growth mindset. This is a person who believes that there is always something new to learn and they like challenges because they provide an opportunity for growth.
We are not born with a fixed mindset. That develops over time based on the labels that we give to events in our lives. It also has a lot to do with the labels that we accept from others. As an example, when a student is told that they did a good job on a test and the idea that they did good because they are smart is reinforced, they will actually gravitate towards the fixed mindset. The idea of doing good because they are smart instead of because they put in great effort reinforces the idea that smart people do good on tests. If a student is praised for the effort that they put into a test and are told that they did good because they worked hard at it, they will gravitate toward the growth mindset.
The things that we heard and had reinforced in our lives as young people combined with the meaning that we assigned to events and experiences in our lives shaped the way that we see the world now. Reality is simply the accepted interpretation of events going on around us. My reality about whether or not I can learn and whether or not I can grow is really just my perception of those things. If I accept that I can grow, then I can. However, the vast majority of people have been conditioned to believe that they are who they are and there isn't anything that they can do about it.
On a daily basis, I coach executives to believe that they can be anybody they want to be, do anything that they want to do, and have anything that they want to have. The problem is that my coaching almost always begins with helping create a new perspective for these executives. I have to demonstrate to them that they have the ability to grow and develop, that they are not fixed. I can't tell you how many times I have heard, "I have 20 years of experience," or "I know what I am doing. I have been doing this for 30 years." The simple reality is that these folks learned skills a number of years ago and then, for whatever reason, began to believe that they couldn't learn any new skills. The fixed mindset creeps up on you when you begin to believe that you have reached the pinnacle of your potential or your skill. As long as you believe that you can always learn something new, that the world is available for your, then you will continue to grow and develop.
Living with a growth mindset positions you to accomplish so much more of what you are capable of. The growth mindset opens you up to opportunities. It makes it possible to live a life of purpose, of challenge, of excitement, and of possibility. When you sit down to look at your life today, ask yourself if you have ever been capable of learning. Ask yourself if you have ever had fun overcoming a challenge. Ask yourself if you are capable of beating a new challenge, of learning new things, of growing on a daily basis. If you are, and you and I both know that you are, then take action. Find a way to grow a little bit today. Find a way to claim this opportunity to throw off the fixed mindset and embrace the growth mindset.
To Your Success,
Jody N Holland
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Jody is a writer, motivational speaker, consultant, and entrepreneur. He has been the keynote speaker at over 250 events around the world. Jody speaks more than 150 times per year at different programs, and he has given more than 10,000 speeches during his career.