We each have a running account of what is happening, what it means, and what we should do. Our minds constantly monitor and interpret. Mindsets frame and fuel the stories we create about ourselves.
The view you adopt—the software program of mindset you use—can significantly affect the way you live your life. Let’s examine two simple versions of mindsets.
Those with a fixed mindset try to make sure they succeed. A consuming goal is to prove oneself: in the classroom, later in a career, or in a relationship. Each situation calls for a confirmation of intelligence, personality, or character. The repeated internal questions are: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be rejected or accepted? Will I be a loser or winner?
Yet with a fixed mindset, and a preoccupation with how you’ll be judged, no amount of confirmation can dislodge the hypothesis of mediocrity or the need for proof.
A fixed mindset shares some of these characteristics:
- You learn things, but intelligence is basic and essentially unchangeable
- Since your traits are fixed, success is about proving that you are talented or smart
- Problems indicate character flaws
- Self-esteem repair occurs by assigning blame or making excuses
A growth mindset is based on a belief in change. You believe you can enhance and develop yourself. You become open to accurate information about talents and abilities. You use it to adjust and grow. To improve.
The growth mindset of learning is based on a belief that basic qualities are developed and evolve throughout life. The fundamental assumption is that everyone can change and grow through experience and application—that you can even change how intelligent you are.
Dr. Howard Gardner, in his book Extraordinary Minds, concludes that exceptional individuals with growth mindsets have a “special talent for identifying their own strengths and weaknesses.”
Whatever remains unconscious will be attributed to fate. Beliefs are often not conscious, yet we can pay attention to the best indicators of beliefs: our behavior. We can nudge ourselves toward a growth mindset:
- Am I taking ownership of my mistakes?
- What can I learn from this?
- How can I improve?
In adulthood, whatever we experience we either create or accept.