How would you define mindset? Put 20 personal development experts in a room and ask them to explain mindset; they will all come up with a different definition. For the longest time, I defined mindset as an attitude and a way of thinking that allowed a person to be in a continuous state of learning and growth. Personal development modalities such as NVC (Non-Violent Communication), NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), the five questions (Byron Katie), or Compassionate Inquiry teach strategies. So my definition felt inadequate.
I started to think about people who for sure had an admirable mindset. The first people coming to my mind were Serena and Venus Williams because these women know the secret sauce of brilliance marinated in confidence. Though my definition may have indirectly included effort, it did not include talent, resilience, the right teachers, or motivators—all present in the lives of Serena and Venus.
Is there a science behind mindset? Or a definition? These are essential questions for anyone who claims to be interested in personal development, cultivating talent, education, or parenting. When you look into the science of mindset, one name always comes up, Dr. Carol Dweck. Writer of the million-copy bestseller: “Mindset – Changing the way you think to fulfill your potential.”
As part of her research, she discovered a growth and a fixed mindset.
What is a growth mindset?
It is a belief that our qualities can be developed through effort, strategies, and help from others. You can learn and develop intelligence, abilities, and also talent.
The kind of person who, when they are asked to pick a puzzle, they will choose the most challenging puzzle. As it would give them an opportunity to grow and learn. Failure is an opportunity to learn, to adjust want you are doing, so you can do better next time.
You are in a continuous place of growth.
And indeed, Venus and Serena Williams are an excellent example of this.
What is a fixed mindset?
People with a fixed mindset assume that we are hard-wired regarding our intelligence, abilities, and talents. They do not and can not change over time through effort.
These people would pick the easiest puzzle, so they can more easily succeed as you are either a failure or a success as a person. And what determines if you are one or the other is fixed at birth.
It doesn’t mean that someone with a fixed mindset can not win. You are either a winner or a loser in their mind. And if a winner loses, there are two options; you blame yourself or someone else.
To stay with tennis. Think of John McEnroe; he could not handle losing, as it would define him as a loser. This is why it was always the umpire or the racket. Though an excellent player, he failed to be in a place of learning and growth. A piece of magic that Venus and Serena did have.
Do you have a growth or fixed mindset?
Answer the following questions:
1. Though your intelligence (IQ) is fixed at birth, you can learn how to develop the intelligence that you have. True or false?
2. You can change fundamental things about yourself, no matter who you are. True or false?
If you answered true, you likely have a growth mindset.
How is this relevant for you?
This is something important to reflect on.
Cultivating a growth mindset within yourself can make a key difference in your life. How you perceive the world. There was one moment in my life, when I collapsed on the floor, and I could no longer get up. I was physically and mentally unable to get out of bed for several years. A panel of 3 psychologists determined I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a disease that could not be cured, and I would have for life. I was forced to go into therapy to deal with and learn to live with my disease. I remember when I received the diagnosis that something seemed wrong. I didn’t disagree with the diagnosis. I didn’t believe that it was incurable. It showed me that either psychology as a whole or these three psychologists did not have the answer. I thought there was a way, lesson, action, modality, or even an herb, pill, or process that could cure me. Will-power, effort, resilience, and the willingness to change and learn would heal me. Clearly, these three psychologists had a fixed mindset. And I was lucky to find a therapist who, like me, had a growth mindset. He encouraged me to use NLP, and anything I believed could help. Eight years later, not only was my chronic fatigue cured, my therapist became my student.
What would have happened if I didn’t have a growth mindset? Or he didn’t? The course of my life would have been different. I would not be writing this article, most likely.
Please don’t let this be another blog post you fail to use as an opportunity to learn and grow. Cultivating a growth mindset in yourself and others could be as pivotal as it was for me.
Think about the following.
1. If you are a parent, are you raising your children to develop a fixed or a growth mindset?
2. If you become physically or mentally ill, how would a growth mindset help you?
3. If you wanted to switch careers?
4. Lost a person or a meaningful relationship?
5. A setback?
6. Failed horribly and something you worked hard to succeed at?
What three things could you do to develop or increase a growth mindset?