Do you believe in your own abilities? More importantly, do you believe that you can improve them? That latter mindset is the key to higher performance. It’s the key to learning and achieving. And it’s the key to changing the world.
There was a time when I thought my blog would never grow.
My traffic had leveled off, my subscriber numbers were steady, and it just wasn’t that much fun anymore. I was stuck in neutral. I had stopped believing that I could do better, that I could learn more, and that I was having the impact that I set out to have. I wasn’t changing the world. I merely existed.
It only took one email to jar me out of that funk. The email told me that I had changed someone’s life. One person’s life. That was it. Not thousands or even hundreds. Just one person’s life.
That was the moment I realized that this was only a phase. I had a ton of room for growth…and it would come.
Believing that you can do something is the first step to doing anything. But if you are stuck in any mindset for very long, it begins to stagnate, even if that mindset is a positive one.
The key to not stagnating is to believe that your talents are changeable.
Fixed vs. growth mindset
There are two types of mindsets, according to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck. This might seem a little academic, but stick with me.
The first group is those with a fixed mindset. This group believes that their talents, intelligence, and abilities are limited. They are already set in place.
The second group has a growth mindset. This group believes that they can increase their talents, intelligence and abilities with work. Studying will make them smarter. Practice will make them better. Experience will enhance their skills.
To be clear, the second group isn’t delusional. They don’t believe that practice alone is enough to dunk a basketball or that everyone was born to be able to think like Albert Einstein. We all have inherent abilities, talents, and pathways of thinking. In other words, we were all born to change the world in different ways.
But the key is that people with growth mindsets believe that everyone can max out their talents and abilities in every area of life. “Realism” (I love this definition of the word) suggests that we can never reach the pinnacle of anything. A growth mindset suggests that we can all reach the pinnacle of something and that we can all reach a personal pinnacle of everything we want.
In other words, our ceilings might be at different heights, but we can all bust through that ceiling.
The problem with a fixed mindset
In addition to being utterly depressing, a fixed mindset also limits you.
When your mindset is fixed in any way, you miss opportunities. Since your mindset is fixed right where it is, you don’t look for opportunities for growth. You don’t look for chances to learn or adventures to experience.
When I was at my low point, I had stopped looking for ways to grow. I had given up on tweaking my site, testing new copy, and learning new ways to convert visitors into fans. It led nowhere.
Why a growth mindset works
Carol Dweck, the psychologist I mentioned earlier, performed numerous studies proving that a growth mindset increases performance, learning, and ultimately one’s level of joy in life.
In one study, she asked 373 students at the beginning of seventh grade whether they had a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Keep in mind, what I am about to share has nothing to do with their natural intelligence (IQ) but only with their mindsets.
Two years later, they tracked the performance of both groups of students (fixed and growth mindsets). The GPA of the growth mindset students went up. The GPA of the fixed mindset group remained stagnant. This was just as true among those with a 2.0 GPA or a 3.5.
Those who believed they could improve did so. Those who didn’t believe they could improve, did not.
So why does this work in all aspects of life? Simple:
We work harder when we feel the desired result is attainable.
A growth mindset says that there will be reward for the hard work. A fixed mindset says it’s pointless.
When I did not see a reward with my blog, I stopped working. I stopped trying to get better. When I stopped believing that growth was possible, I no longer put in the hours, no longer put forth the effort, and no longer used my existing intelligence to reach new heights.
Here’s the best part of the two mindsets:
You get to choose which one you’ll have.
Even the great Zig Ziglar, who used to joke about “being born an optimist” had to choose that mindset. He had to choose to believe that.
Whatever it is you want to achieve, first believe that you can. Then set out to do it.
Believe that you can change the world…and you will.
In what ways have you struggled with a “fixed” mindset? How have you overcome it?