When you are faced with a difficult problem, do you immediately think – “I am not smart enough to solve it”…. or do you think “I just have not solved it yet” ?
In her TEDTalk “The Power of Believing You Can Improve”, Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University shares her learning behind the ‘growth’ mindset – the idea that with the right mindset, we can build on our natural born abilities to achieve further success.
All of us are born with innate strengths and talents. Some people believe that these basic qualities are fixed traits and that our progress and success in life is determined by the level of intelligence and talent we’ve been blessed with at birth. There is new learning however, that proves otherwise.
Carol Dweck’s research shows that our brains and innate talent are just the starting point. Having the right mindset is what makes the difference. People with a ‘growth’ mindset believe that their basic qualities can be developed further through learning and hard work. And it is this ‘growth’ mindset that creates a love for learning and a resilience that results in more positive outcomes and a greater improvement in results.
In her TEDTalk, she shares an interesting example of how students with a ‘growth’ mindset engaged positively to a difficult exercise and saw it as an opportunity to learn something new. In contrast, students with a ‘fixed’ mindset were extremely anxious as they felt their intelligence would be up for judgement. As a result, they performed poorly and had the tendency to run from new challenges. Scientific data also shows that when we push ourselves to learn something new out of our comfort zone, the neurons in our brain fire up to form new stronger connections which over time helps improve our abilities.
While her talk focuses mainly on young adult development, there are implications for all of us.
Here are my key takeaways –
Abilities can be developed with learning and effort
I remember sitting in a training session recently where I was completely in awe of how eloquent the speaker was …. and feeling relieved when he shared that his ‘secret’ was in-depth research observing the best speakers in the world coupled with hundreds of hours of practice to refine his skills. I immediately thought – if he can do it, so can I ! So, yes, abilities can absolutely be developed but you must put in the time and effort. It has been documented that if you study an hour a day in a field you want to master, you could be an expert in that field in four years. Do you have time set aside each day for personal growth ?
Celebrate progress made
Instead of beating yourself up when you don’t achieve your desired results, celebrate small wins as you see improvements in your abilities and progress towards your goals. Carol Dweck’s research showed that when students were rewarded for their progress; they showed more effort, better engagement and more perseverance.
Change your mindset to a ‘Yet’ mindset.
Instead of saying to yourself “I failed”, say instead “I have not succeeded yet”. This keeps your mind open to the possibility of success and helps motivate you to keep going.
You will achieve greater progress when you focus your learning and effort against building on your strengths vs overcoming limitations. If you can’t fry egg without burning it, keep your day job as chances are you’re not going to be the next Marco Pierre White.
Carol Dweck’s research is charting new territory into the power of ‘yet’ and is instrumental in helping us create more possibilities in our lives.