What is it that separates achievers from quitters? Is there a certain skill or trait that most successful people have in common? It turns out, there just might be. According to Dr Carol Dweck, there are two mindsets we can navigate life with —growth and fixed. The term mindset is defined as an established set of attitudes held by individuals that help guide their behaviour.
One’s mindset is rooted in their experiences, education, interactions, and culture from which one form thoughts that establish their beliefs and attitudes. Those thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes lead to certain actions and with those actions, they have experiences, and those experiences shape their mindset. It is an indisputable fact that humans evolve with age. Therefore, one’s mindset can alter.
According to science, our brain can be reshaped over time, forming new neural pathways. These neural pathways are developed by doing or thinking particular things. The things that we do or say more often become hard-wired into our brains as habits. These habits can be defined ‘routes’ in our brain, which become easier to use. But you can still change them. The first step is to realise that you need to, and then train your brain in the new skill.
An individual with a fixed mindset leads to a desire to look smart and therefore, a tendency to avoid challenges. Consequently, they are unable to achieve their full potential. In an educational environment, individuals with a fixed mindset think that learning and intelligence have limitations, and they cannot grow as students. On the other hand, an individual with a growth mindset leads to a desire to learn and a resultant tendency to see efforts as the path to mastery. In an educational environment, individuals with a growth mindset think that learning and intelligence are limitless; with hard work, one can acquire skills and learn, and as a result, change their levels of intelligence. Those with a growth mindset are less concerned about their perception, and more focused upon learning. In other words, they yearn to learn. According to Dr Dweck, what makes a growth mindset so winsome is that it creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval. Persons with this mindset are afraid of but not discouraged by failure.
Nobody ‘purely’ holds a fixed or growth mindset. More often than not, human beings are born with a desire to self-actualise. In an attempt to do so, we adopt a strategy, form a mindset, learn about our surroundings, etc. Sometimes, we are successful, at other times, not there yet. People with a fixed mindset will join their hands, and resign whereas people with a growth mindset will try again. With their second attempt, they will adopt a different strategy and try to hold onto hope. In other words, a skill is something you can cultivate. You can become more creative, more athletic, and even successful by focusing on the process, and not the outcome. It’s the process that is the prize.
Over the years, my mindset has developed from fixed to growth. As a child, I believed in my abilities only to an extent. If I performed poorly in school, I would disregard the comments made by the teacher or my parents. If I did not score a goal or make an assist in a football game, I would begin to see my efforts as worthless. Only compliments directed towards me or my achievements could get a smile on my face.
All this changed when I saw a film called Shawshank Redemption. A quote from the film, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying” changed my way of thinking. With a fixed mindset, I would not be open to new avenues, instead, be fearful. The film taught me that it is important to go out, find your passion, and be bold. Most importantly, always hold on to hope.
Over the past year, I set a few short and long term goals: reading a book a month, widening my social circle, and speaking to my teachers to understand where I faltered. We overestimate the importance of a single event and underestimate the importance of making better choices daily. However, it is vital to remember that nobody can develop a mindset overnight. It’s a course of gradual progression. A stimulus must be evoked externally. It is natural to weigh your strengths and weaknesses, doubt your abilities, but what matters the most is your interpretations and the following actions.
An individual’s true potential is unknown and unmeasurable. Moreover, it’s impossible to forecast what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training. We are a blend of the two mindsets with one more raised than the other. I say this because as we grow older, we experience more things. Both mindsets are two distinct worlds: In one world, the world of fixed traits — success is about proving you’re smart or talented, validating yourself. In the other — the world of changing qualities — it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new, developing yourself. It’s not always about winning or losing, succeeding or failing, loving or hating — nothing is good or bad forever. But, how you emerge out of a crisis or a moment of praise without getting ahead of yourself? It’s the mindset you endorse.
Today, we are living in a world that is progressing rapidly. Each one of us is grappling with new information, concerns, and so much more. We are constantly receiving approval and rejection. To infiltrate feedbackand act appropriately, being self-aware is vital. Unless, you develop a mindset and believe in it wholeheartedly, your mindset will influence your decisions. Life is a journey filled with highs and lows. Self-motivation is the key and a well-trained mind will help you. A mindset is an interpretative process that teaches us about our surroundings so we must learn to adapt with change and continue to develop our mindset.
The significance of having a growth mindset is more important now than ever before. When the coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020, even the best of us were lost on how to combat it. The healthcare industry rose to the challenge, armed with a growth mindset, and developed successful vaccines to inhibit its life-threatening consequences. As children, we did not know what a mindset was, however, we were forming one unconsciously. But, as we grow older and become aware of the term and its significance, we must allow ourselves to live and act consciously by deliberately cultivating a growth mindset.
The writer is a class 12 student from Vasant Valley School.