Is our intelligence pretty much fixed at birth?
Do star footballers and musicians have some innate talent that the rest of us lack?
Is your potential determined by your genes?
No, no and no.
The idea of a growth mindset is catching on, with books like Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success. We’re not limited by what we can do … but by what we think we can do.
If you have a fixed mindset, you believe that your abilities are pretty much set in stone. Perhaps you’re great with words, but you struggle with numbers. You can paint, but you can’t carry a tune. You can never get your head round new technology, though you’re great at reading maps.
If you have a growth mindset, you believe that you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to. You might struggle with numbers – but you believe that’s because you never paid much attention in math class. You can’t carry a tune – but you’ve never taken a single singing lesson, so that’s no surprise.
People with a fixed mindset tend to avoid challenges. After all, if your abilities are fixed and innate, there’s no point embarrassing yourself by trying something that you just know you’ll be bad at.
People with a growth mindset tend to embrace challenges. After all, if your abilities grow as you use them, you can only get better by trying new things.
From the work of authors like Dweck and Gladwell, it’s clear that people who achieve highly usually have a growth mindset: they’re willing to continually practice in order to get better at what they do.
So … how can you adopt more of a growth mindset?
#1: Stop Saying “I Can’t”
Next time you catch yourself saying, I can’t sing or I can’t write a novel or I can’t draw, stop.
You might not be able to do those things yet … but that doesn’t mean you never will. Try saying:
I’ve never studied singing, so I’m not especially good at it … yet.
Perhaps singing isn’t a priority, and you don’t want to devote the time to learning to sing. That’s fine! Just recognize that if you wanted to, you could. And if the reason you “can’t” is because you’ve tried half-heartedly, check out 12 Ways to Strengthen Your Resolve.
#2: Practice Your Skills
There are plenty of things that you’re already good at. Perhaps you “get” computers and can easily fix problems, or you’re a great writer.
However good you are, though, there’s always room for improvement. Don’t assume that you’ve found your level. You can take your skill further … if you want to.
That means making time for learning and for deliberate practice. Perhaps you’ll invest in a book or course that can help you become a true expert in your chosen field. You might even find a mentor who can show you the next steps.
#3: Keep Trying New Things
I’m quite shy, and I’m also a bit of a perfectionist – so I find it tough to try new things, especially when I know people are watching! But I know that by gradually expanding my comfort zone, I can achieve new goals.
The same goes for you. However shy you feel, or however nervous you are, you can take a step towards something new.
You might try:
- Public speaking – it really does get easier over time!
- A new sport or activity – join a beginners’ group, and everyone else will be at the same level as you.
- Learning a foreign language – if you want a ton of practical and empowering advice on this, head to Fluent in 3 Months.
I know it takes time to change your mindset: I often find myself slipping back into the “fixed” way of thinking. But the more you consciously practice a growth mindset, the more natural it’ll become – and you’ll realize that you can achieve far more than you once thought possible.
What are you trying to achieve? What do you think you could NEVER do? Share your thoughts about this in the comments…
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