Mind Over Matter, Right?

There may be many reasons why some people achieve all they want to in life, stick to good habits or acquire new skills quickly but studies have shown that the way you perceive and think about life is the main driver to achieving success. 

The mind or the brain is a powerful thing. Your internal narrative and the things you believe about yourself or a situation can either hold you back or allow you to blossom into having a successful, happy life.

Mind Over Matter, Right?

So the way we think about our intellect or talents not only affects how we feel about ourselves in terms of self-esteem or self-worth but also affects how well we achieve, develop new skills or stick to habits. 

Usually, people fall into two camps, those with a fixed mindset and those with a growth mindset.

This was first described by the esteemed psychologist and researcher on human motivation, Carol Dweck who went on to write a bestseller on this topic called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. 

In this book, she goes on to theorize about the two mindsets described above and takes you on an exploration into how our conscious and unconscious thoughts affect not only our moods but behaviors and outlook on life and how even something as rudimentary as wording can have a massive impact on our ability to improve or venture onto new things.

Basically, your view of yourself can determine the outcome of nearly everything that you embark on in your life.  

Growth Vs Fixed Mindsets Explained

What you believe is what you become. 

On a high level, people with a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence is static or innate. Their goal is to look smart all the time and never dumb as they believe they have a certain amount of intelligence given to them and that is it. 

Whereas people with a growth mindset have an understanding that they may not know everything about a certain topic or be really good at something but that this is a temporary state of being and they do not feel ashamed or held back to find ways to improve their skill set or intelligence.

In other words, people that have a growth mindset understand that their talents and abilities are not God-given and stagnant but can be developed, improved, and optimized through hard work, effort, good teaching, and perseverance.

This does not mean that a person with a growth mindset believe that they are good at everything and anything- there are variables in what we are all able to achieve- but they recognize that there is room for improvement and they see their “failings” or “setbacks” as temporary and changeable.

This is why having a growth mindset is crucial for living a resilient, successful, and happy life.

A person with a growth mindset are more likely to do the following:

  • Put in more effort to learn and partake in lifelong learning and that this will lead to mastery of a subject.
  • Believe intelligence can be improved.
  • Believe failures are just temporary setbacks and embrace challenges put forward to them.
  • View feedback as a source of information and learning opportunity, not criticism. 
  • View others’ success as a source of inspiration

Whereas a person with a fixed mindset is almost the exact opposite:

  • They view feedback as criticism or ignore the feedback altogether. 
  • They also avoid challenges to avoid failure and will give up easily.
  • Feel threatened by others’ success and will go so far as to hide their flaws not to be judged by others. 
  • Believe that their intelligence, talent, and abilities are stagnant.

To illustrate this further, below are examples of situations that show the contrast between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset:

Feedback

Fixed Mindset: When people give me feedback, it feels like criticism.

Growth Mindset: I appreciate when people give me feedback. It helps me learn and grow.

Challenges And Trying New Things

Fixed Mindset: If I don’t try new or hard things, then I won’t fail.

Growth Mindset: I have to try new and difficult things to grow, even if I fail at first.

There are also a wide variety of benefits associated with adopting a growth mindset, other than the obvious success that comes with it.

Studies have shown that people with a growth mindset benefit from a reduction in burnout, psychological challenges such as anxiety, and the students that participated in the study also were reported to have higher GPAs and fewer behavioral problems overall.

The Science

When measuring the activity in the brain of a person using neuroimaging, neuroscientists have found links between people with a growth mindset and the activation of the anterior cingulate cortex (which is the part of the brain involved in learning and control) and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex which is involved in behavioral adaptation and error correction. 

People with a growth mindset appear to have higher motivation and error correction and lower activation in response to negative feedback.

In studies, the brains of these growth-mindsetters was the most active when they were informed on mechanisms to improve on their abilities for next time. An example of this would be feedback on a task like a presentation or a test result. 

Developing A Growth Mindset

Researches, like Carol Dweck have shown that it is possible to promote a growth mindset by teaching yourself about the evidence provided by neuroscience showing that the brain is a muscle and can be exercised and through effort become stronger and improved. 

There are a few ways of helping yourself shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset and the first step to achieving this is to realize you can improve.

  1. Realize you are able to improve and your brain is built to learn and adapt. 

As with most things in life, awareness is the starting point to any journey.

  1. Remove the fixed mindset narrative in your head.

This is probably the trickiest to overcome but try to reframe the way you think and practise intentional growth mindset self-talk. Instead of “I can’t” say “I can if I keep on studying/practising etc.” 

  1. Reward the process

Instead of rewarding yourself for the end result alone, recognise the journey to this point and all the effort you put in along the way.

  1. Revel in feedback

Feedback is your friend and can only motivate you to keep going. 

  1. Get out of your comfort zone

Try new things, always. If it is scary and you think it may make you happy, give it a go.

  1. Accept failure and learn from it

Setbacks and failure often come as a bruise to the ego but they are actually veiled learning opportunities meant to help you along the way.

The Bottom Line

If you have an inkling that you have a fixed mindset in some areas of your life, try adopting a growth mindset. You will be happier for it. If you are unsure about whether you have a fixed or growth mindset, you can take a quiz here.

Either way, there is always room for improvement and you can do anything that you put your (growth mindset) mind to!

For more information on the work Carol Dweck has done on this, check out her work