Many of us believe that we are born with a fixed level of intelligence, that no matter how much we learn or how hard we work, our intelligence remains the same. But the idea of fixed intelligence is yesterday’s theory!
In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck explains that it is the mindset that matters, not what you were born with. Dweck, the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at the Stanford University, makes this claim with the backing of over 30 years of research.
Brains can grow – they can improve
Brains do not stop growing like our bodies do. They can grow and adapt, all the way to the time of death. Brain cells grow when we use them. New connections are formed within the brain with each and every experience, every day and all the time.
Think of your brain as a dynamic machine capable of growth, adaptation and plasticity.
How experiences reorganize the neural pathways in the brain as a result of changes that occur when we are experiencing, learning or memorizing new things is referred to as plasticity, or neuroplasticity. It involves a number of different processes that take place over a lifetime. Different types of plasticity may occur or dominate at certain periods.
According to the University of Washington academics, neuroplasticity occurs “during normal brain development when the immature brain first begins to process sensory information through adulthood (developmental plasticity and plasticity of learning and memory).” Neuroplasticity may also occur “as an adaptive mechanism to compensate for lost function and/or to maximize remaining functions in the event of brain injury.”
So according to neuroscience we are capable of learning new things. And in doing so we can improve the capacity of our brain and our intelligence.
The Two Mindsets
In Mindset, Carol Dweck explains how people have primarily one of two mindsets. People with a Fixed Mindset believe that intelligence is a fixed trait, that its static. People with a Growth Mindset believe that intelligence can be changed and developed. Dweck says they are right.
Fixed Mindset people desire to look smart. Growth Mindset people desire to learn. These different desires determine how they approach everything. Your mindset can change your destiny because of the different ways Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset people view challenges, obstacles, effort, criticism and the success of others.
Fixed Mindsets avoid challenges – Growth Mindsets embrace them
Each and every opportunity is a personal test of intelligence or talent to a person with a fixed mindset. This is why they would rather avoid a challenge than lose or be seen as losing.
Growth Mindset people know each challenge helps them grow, and stretch themselves, their intelligence, skills or mastery. They don’t compete with others, but with themselves. This is why they don’t mind losing in order to grow and learn.
Fixed Mindsets give up easily – Growth Mindsets persist in face of obstacles
Fixed Mindset people give up because they lose confidence in the talents or intelligence, which in their minds is fixed at birth. Failure can easily shatter their self esteem and confidence.
Growth Mindset people can persist when faced with setbacks because they know that failures help them grow. Losing does not mean they become losers; its temporary.
Fixed Mindset people don’t believe in effort – Growth Mindset people do
People with Fixed Mindset do not bother with effort because they don’t believe it can help them improve. Effort is an undermining of their talent.
Growth Mindset people view effort as the key to success. The more effort, energy and time they put into something, the better chances they have of winning or mastery in that area.
Fixed Mindsets and Growth Mindsets deal differently with criticism
Fixed Mindset people don’t take criticism well. They ignore even useful negative feedback. People with a Growth Mindset are open to criticism. They know they can learn from mistakes to grow even more.
Fixed Mindsets and Growth Mindsets respond differently to others’ success
Fixed Mindset people have a ‘Be Good’ approach to everything. They are threatened when others succeed because they want to be good; to be better than others. They see themselves as winners due to their naturally endowed superiority.
Growth Mindset people compete with themselves; not with others. They have a ‘Get Better’ approach and only compare their performance with how they did before. When they see others doing well, succeeding or surpassing them, they can find lessons to learn in that. They find inspiration in others’ successes.
Fixed Mindset people plateau early – Growth Mindsets rise to higher and higher levels of achievement
Because of the way they respond to things, Fixed Mindset people plateau early. They often achieve far less than their true potential. Their lives are self fulfilling prophecies because of their highly deterministic worldview. They fail to realize that it is their own fixed mindset that determines their destiny; rather than external forces.
Growth Mindset people typically go on to reach ever higher levels of achievement. The root of their success is their Mindset. They know it’s their own efforts that drive them to success. They live with a greater sense of free will.
You can change your mindset – Age has nothing to do with it
Think about your life. Consider how you respond to things. It will become clear whether you have a fixed or a growth mindset. The online test from Carol Dweck’s Mindsetonline.com will help you determine your mindset.
A Growth Mindset is desirable regardless of age or occupation. According to Carol Dweck, who says she herself used to have a Fixed Mindset, your mindset can be changed.