As we near the beginning of a new year, we tend to think of what we’ve accomplished in the past year and what we want to achieve next. One key factor that can make the difference between personal success or defeat is our mindset.
The dictionary defines mindset as “the established set of attitudes held by someone.” Putting this into a personal perspective, a mindset is composed of beliefs about oneself, which create one’s self-perception. This self-perception can be fixed or flexible. Another term for a flexible mindset is growth mindset. Each one of us has our personal mindset that is a composite of a fixed and a growth mindset, but whichever one is more dominant makes a difference in how we plan, act and move forward.
A fixed mindset comes from the belief that who we are and what we are capable of, is a direct result of our birth. In other words, our capabilities are innate, we are born a certain way and that dictates what we do and can do. Those with a fixed mindset believe that each person inherits qualities such as intelligence, talents, and personality characteristics. Those who feel that their qualities are unique to their genetics believe these characteristics generally remain stable throughout their lives.
Growth mindset is a term that was coined by Carol Dweck, an American psychologist and professor who authored Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. She posited that with a growth mindset, a person could develop skills and talents through hard work, by learning from others and by using specific strategies to improve. In a way, she positioned the debate of nature vs. nurture as fixed mindset vs. growth mindset. Just as we are a product of our genes as well as our environment and upbringing, so are we composed of both types of mindsets—what we inherited genetically and how we are educated and brought up. Whichever mindset dominates our thinking is the one that dictates what we ultimately believe about ourselves.
Professor Dwek found in her research that those with a growth mindset see opportunities instead of obstacles, choosing to challenge themselves to learn more rather than sticking in their comfort zones. Put another way, those with a growth mindset are more likely to step out of their boxes.
You may ask yourself, “Am I someone who is comfortable risking an unknown outcome or do I need to have a guarantee of sorts before undertaking something new or different?” There really is no right answer, because it takes so many different types of people to make things work. What Professor Dwek advocates for is a way to teach children to be openminded and receptive to the myriad possibilities they have in life. In one of her YouTube presentations, she speaks about elementary aged children who already seem to have developed their mindsets. Some were naturally open to problem-solving and even were excited by challenges, while others were worried and nervous. Correlatively, those who were excited by problem-solving were not defeated when they made mistakes and naturally seemed to be upbeat about having learned something new, while the tentative and tense children were visibly upset by their self-perceived “failures” and fearful of trying again.
Children’s mindsets have a lot to do with how they are parented and the type of lifestyles they live among. This self-perception tends to carry into adulthood, so if it’s a fixed mindset, it may be somewhat limiting. That’s why self-development and self-awareness as we mature is so important. It helps us grow and cultivate a mindset that allows us to do more. This is exactly the foundation on which Humans Being More is built, and why Nikken urges one an all to participate in the continuing evolution of self.
The phrase that helps each of us look forward to something better or someone better (namely a better version of ourself) is “not yet.” When we feel less than adequate or at least not completely successful, rather than perceive our shortcomings as negative, Professor Dweck urges us to think of being in the space of “not yet.” In other words, we may not be exactly where we want, we may not have achieved what we specifically set out to do, we may even have totally bombed, but rather than think of it as a failure and berate ourself, we can perceive the task as “not yet” accomplished. This slight shift in thinking makes way for endless possibilities and hopeful probabilities.
As Professor Dweck explains it, “This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way—in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments—everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”
Although a fixed mindset has its own advantages—for example, those who play it safe in the stock market rarely lose their fortunes—they also are not the ones who make the “killing.” People with a fixed mindset can miss out on opportunities and chances to learn and grow. Acknowledging this might be half the battle.
Just because someone has a growth mindset does not guarantee success. Not everyone is capable of doing great things, but everyone is capable of doing better things—and that incremental improvement or change is what matters personally, as we are our own worst critics.
How can we develop more of a growth mindset?
1. Try to see challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles. This does not come naturally to everyone, and is a thought pattern that may require practice. It is a process.
2. Take time to review the day once you have a moment to be still. What went well and what didn’t? What is the overall takeaway and what are the smaller details to learn from?
3. Be kind to yourself and do not judge or label anything a failure. Every successful person says the same thing, “Mistakes are the stepping stones to success.”
4. Recognize why you are tackling a goal. Is it a step toward a further achievement? Is it simply something you’ve always wanted to do? Is it part of a big lesson? Whatever it is, do it for yourself, not to gain someone else’s approval. When we involve someone else in our mindset, it is no longer our mindset.
5. Surround yourself whenever possible with people who are positive-minded and successful. Ask them how they accomplished what they did or how they got to where they are. If lucky, your sincere interest may land you a mentor!
6. Train yourself to separate your actions from your talents. In other words, when you reach a goal, think about what you did to reach it, not how your personality or intelligence helped you along. Did something in your Active Wellness lifestyle propel you onward?
7. As stated previously, add “yet” into your stream of consciousness so that anything not reached is simply difficult, challenging and yet to be reached, but you’re getting there.
8. Pat yourself on the back. As Chancellor of Nikken University Jeff Isom says, “Compliments make connections.” So, compliment yourself and connect with your growth mindset.
9. Be realistic. Set small, reachable goals as you head to larger, harder ones.
10. The growth mindset has no end. It’s a lifelong process, so let’s make it fun!