Have you been introduced to Carol Dweck’s research and writing yet? It was the topic of schoolwide study recently at Canterbury School here in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She’s also been featured in New York Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America, Time magazine, NPR…the list goes on.
Dr. Dweck’s premise is simple, but life-changing:
“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.
“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”
The world-renowned Stanford University psychologist has been a resource for professional athletes, business leaders and educators seeking their own improvement or to motivate others to develop to their fullest potential. And her theories work.
After all, if you believe that you just weren’t born with certain skills or abilities, then why would you even continue to try? But if you believe that you can improve your skills or abilities and better yourself, regardless of your raw material or starting point, then you have some impetus to try. This is true whether you’re trying to improve your batting average to achieve National League status or you’re trying to improve your leadership skills to land a new job.
Fear can be a hindrance—if you try, there’s a chance you might fail. But through her website and her book, Mindset, Dr. Dweck teaches readers how to view failure differently, to look at it as a learning opportunity and a necessary part of improvement and achievement. Really, there’s nothing left to lose with a growth mindset, because trying harder and failing along the way isn’t losing.
Take a look at how this influences your own thinking. Do you believe that your career choices are limited by your existing skills or expertise? Do you think that you have to already be perfect or have all the knowledge or talent necessary to say yes to a promotion or new opportunity? That’s a very limiting position: If you are all that you’ll ever be, how can you hope to advance or progress?
Dr. Dweck’s proposal can be a little scary at first to those who are opposed to risk or setbacks. But once you realize that the greatest thinkers in the world, such as Thomas Edison, regularly had to try, try again, that a learning curve is expected, it can be quite liberating. It’s the opportunity to explore, to discover, and to quite possibly uncover a new talent along the way. If you’re not sure how to begin, we at Merrfeld can help you look at how your mindset might be constricting your life, shake off perfectionism and setbacks, and consider the potential!