Why Your Mindset is Holding You Back
Many people take it for granted but your mind—how you think and what you believe—are extremely important factors when it comes to the overall self. Imagine this scenario, Johnny is sitting in a math class, awaiting the results of an exam he took a week ago. This exam’s grade is extremely important. If he earns less than a 77% on this exam, he will likely fail the course for the semester unless he manages to receive a 93% or higher on the following exam, which is also the final exam.
Things aren’t looking well.
Class begins and the professor sorts out a series of papers on the front desk. Slowly and cautiously, the students each rise from their desks and approach the front desk, hesitant to grab their exam. No one wants to see their score. Johnny reluctantly fumbles through the pile and eventually sees his name. Directly next to it in red is his score. A 68%.
“That’s it. I’m done for”, Johnny says to himself as he slumps back to his seat with a look of disappointment and shock blatantly plastered upon his face. “I might as well drop out of this major. I just can’t do Math. I’ve never been good at it. What was I thinking”?
This is Johnny’s mindset talking and it’s exhibiting what is known as a fixed mentality.
No, it’s not that he can’t do Math. Rather, his limiting mindset and lack of confidence weren’t allowing himself to believe that he could do Math. Therefore, his efforts are diminished and the results are as you’d expect.
Has anything like this ever happened to you?
Growth vs. Fixed Mindset
In the above scenario, Johnny displayed what is known as a Fixed Mindset, which is the belief that one’s skills or talents are stationary and unable to be changed even with extensive hard work and practice.
Consider the positive, healthier twin brother of the Fixed Mindset, the Growth Mindset. With a growth mindset, one believes that intellect, skills, and ability can be improved over time with effort. Holders of this mindset believe that circumstances won’t necessarily hold them back but rather a lack of effort and low confidence will.
Overall, studies indicate that students with a growth mindset will do better in school overall which is due to how they approach school. Rather than submit to adversity or criticism, these students face the opposition head on and use it to learn and develop themselves positively.
Carol Dweck, a renowned professor of Psychology at Stanford had the following to say about how one’s mindset can affect a student’s success, “In a fixed mindset, students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset, students understand their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching, and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe that everyone can get smarter if they work on it”.
Develop a growth mindset if you want to get ahead. Consider the following scenario. Jack had always dreamed of achieving a great physique akin to that of an expert bodybuilder. He admired their confidence, the way others admired them, and the sense of power provided to the individual. Unfortunately, due to his genetics, it was always a struggle for Jack to even gain a moderate amount of weight.
At 5’11, Jack was 120 lbs soaking wet, not exactly the ideal size of a bodybuilder. But rather than give up, Jack doubled and then tripled his efforts. He began to search for foods that would allow him to grow more easily. He sought out advice from other bodybuilders with genetics similar to his through Youtube and through books. He trained diligently, always envisioning himself on stage in a classic
But rather than give up, Jack doubled and then tripled his efforts. He began to search for foods that would allow him to grow more easily. He sought out advice from other bodybuilders with genetics similar to his through Youtube and through books.
He trained diligently, always envisioning himself on stage in a classic Bodybuilding pose, his right arm curled inwards as his left arm pointed up and outward.
In his mind, he could see himself become as great, if not greater, than his idols. Years later and after a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, Jack finally realized his goals. He still had a long way to go but he managed to come in 2nd place at a Bodybuilding contest. This was the result of his growth mindset.
With a growth mindset, one can maximize their overall potential. Now, shifting one’s thinking isn’t necessarily easy. Old habits die hard, as the adage goes. In order to change your mindset, one must instill a great deal of discipline which will lead to confidence.
Remember Johnny from earlier? If Johnny utilized a growth mindset rather than a fixed one, he could’ve realized that with a bit more practice each day, he could (and likely would) excel past his previous abilities and do much better than even his peers (who might be naturally better than him at math). Build a consistent habit of practicing. Record your progress consistently and in 2 months check back to see what you’ve accomplished.
Also, be sure to emphasize the process and not just the finished product. If you don’t enjoy the journey, you’ll never reach the destination.
Personally, I’ve come to believe that there are 7 steps that one can use to change their way of thinking and alter their fixed mindset into a growth mindset. These were some steps that I took in the past while I was in college to alter my mental state to a growth mindset.
7 Steps to Developing a Growth Mindset
Defeat Negative Self-Talk
There’s an inner voice in everyone’s head that deters them from moving forward. From various videos and readings that I’ve done, even the most confident or successful individuals will inevitably hear the irritating chatter of this inner voice. From my experience, this voice is the beginning of a negative mindset. It constantly reminds you of your shortcomings and paralyzes you in fear and self-doubt.
As difficult as it may be, I believe the best course of action is to just act against the voice and ignore it. Of course, this is much easier said than done but it’s a necessity to changing your mindset.
My challenge to you: Find something or recall an event that scared or intimidated you but that you inevitably conquered. Recall the feelings that you had preceding the event and then after you faced your fear. Chances are, it turned out okay, right? All of the negativity you expected never occurred I’d venture to say. That tends to be the result. I have a simple quote that I refer to whenever I find myself being held back by something I really want to do: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained. I use this phrase to push back the negative self-talk. For me, the fear of never knowing how something could have gone outweighs the fear of something bad occurring. Hopefully, this helps you defeat your negative self-talk as well.
When you begin to enjoy the process of learning, things around you seem different. The various people you encounter and experiences you face becomes an opportunity to challenge yourself into a growth mindset. Personally, I believe that a great way to spark the transition into a growth mindset is to learn about others far more successful than yourself in whatever field you’re interested in.
For example, if you enjoy science, learn more about Stephen Hawkins himself or Albert Einstein. If you love art, find some books or videos about Picasso or perhaps Leonardo Da Vinci. You get the point. Seeing others succeed (and often fail a lot along the way) will show you that risk is necessary to achieve something long-lasting and worthwhile. Simultaneously, learning about these figures can give you additional insight.
Accept the Possibility of Defeat but Don’t Quit There
For the most part, when trying something new or outside your comfort zone, expect to fail or do poorly. In order to grow, one must initially fail. If you were automatically the best at something the first time you tried it, you wouldn’t have grown at all, would you? However, I believe that pushing beyond the point of failure is a core trait in developing a growth mindset.
Once you discover that failure isn’t the final option, you can apply it to everything you do; you’ll understand that failure is only an option if you allow it. I first heard of this step through Arnold Schwarzennegar from the documentary Pumping Iron. In it, he talks about the “pain period” and how many aren’t willing to push past this pain period.
It makes them too uncomfortable.
He goes on to explain that those that are willing to push past it has what it takes to become a champion.
This segment really resonated with me. Although he’s referring specifically to bodybuilding and the intensity that a lifter is willing to go through, I think the concept applies to life in general. When you wish to grow (both physically and mentally), you have to be willing to put yourself in scenarios and situations where you can fail and lose. However, you must persevere and push through it regardless if you truly want something.
Embrace and seek challenges
As I mentioned earlier, without conflict there is no growth. If you were a master from the beginning, you didn’t learn anything—growth hasn’t occurred. In my opinion, in order to develop a growth mindset, I believe it’s necessary that you go find things that challenge you. Do something that you wouldn’t otherwise do. At the very least, be open to the thought of challenging yourself. Take baby steps if necessary.
Visualize the long-term, bigger picture
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”
From what I’ve seen in others, it’s difficult to grow when you don’t have a reason to. I believe that developing a growth mindset involves formulating specific, concrete goals. Beyond that, I think one should visualize what they what from those goals. In Stephen Covey’s book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he dedicates an entire chapter on Starting with the End in mind.
The chapter discusses the importance of knowing where you want to go and backtracking from there. Based on my experiences, it seems as though many people simply coast through their lives, tackling individual problems as they arise daily. Ask someone where they definitely want to be in 10, 20, 50 years and they can’t seem to give a decent answer.
(I have asked this question to people in the past and it’s usually overly simplistic, extremely vague, or they “never really thought about it”).
Therein lies the problem. I think if you know exactly and absolutely what you want out of life you’ll have something you’re willing to work for. You’ll understand that there’s something to shoot for which will build up your drive and ambition. Inevitably, you’ll want to grow in order to catch up to your far-off vision.
Use the success of others to motivate
This ties in with Step 2. Once you begin to see the process that others took to achieve their own personal success, you’ll begin to see that it’s possible for you as well. Once you understand that one’s circumstances aren’t as relevant as you may have initially believed, you’ll have more reason to want to grow.
Develop good habits
I’ve mentioned this in a previous article but your habits are the foundation of the person you’re building. Without quality habits you’ll fall into negative cycles that won’t lead to personal benefit and growth. It’s as Aristotle once said, “…we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
Thank you for reading. Hopefully, by reading this article you can begin to think a bit more about a fixed mindset vs a growth mindset. Do you know which one you have? And are you willing to shift your thinking if it’s a fixed mindset? I encourage anyone reading to actively seek to change the way they think for the better. If you found the article beneficial, please share. It really helps a lot. As usual, thanks again and stay positive!