During my second and final year at community college, I took a Social Psychology course with my influential mentor Dr. Conner. In this fascinating course, we learned about how the social context of situations plays a significant role in how humans will behave. Social Psychology holds potentially endless implications for real world application if scientists could accurately predict how humans would react in specific situations, but the reality of the situations are often much more complex than we think, making the science challenging.
One particular theory we learned in the course, related to goal achievement, is that of Growth Mindset. Originally coined by Carol Dweck, growth mindset is defined as having the belief that one’s, “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,” according to Dweck. It is a rather simple concept, but a powerful one because many of us hold the opposite mindset, aka the Fixed Mindset. This mindset is simply the reverse of the growth, in that our basic abilities and talents are fixed from birth and are unable to be cultivated or developed in any significant way. One can see how circumstances can be viewed in drastically different ways depending on which mindset you bring to the situation.
For example, when I was about 13 years old I tried to learn to play the guitar. My mom bought me a solid beginner guitar, a tuner, and some basic booklets to help me. I could have approached the beginner phase understanding that it would take consistent practice over a long period of time (aka “grit” – another related concept) to cultivate rhythm, nimble fingers, and the memory of chords. I could have believed that I could grow better as a guitar player because my talent was not based on innate talent, but rather on the effort I put into the skill (growth). OR I could practice for a few weeks, realize that I just wasn’t good at playing, and tell myself that I would never be an expert guitarist because I wasn’t born with the quick, agile fingers and innate talent like others (fixed). I don’t remember exactly why I quit, but it was likely a lack of motivation and a fixed mindset. Regardless, I had to make a choice of how I was going to approach guitar playing. This could easily be applied in other areas of life.
For example, each year thousands of people make New Year’s Resolutions to get in shape – or rather, out of shape if their shape is a circle. However, we all know that an enormous amount of those individuals who purchase a Planet Fitness (or some other local fitness center) membership lose interest within a few weeks, throwing away their resolutions. I am curious as to if this could be attributed to the lack of results. They do not see results within a few weeks, so they might think, “Why bother torturing myself on the elliptical three times a week??” One explanation could be the lack of a growth mindset and a simple acceptance that they are always going to be fat, justifying it with the excuse that, “they have really bad genetics that make me gain weight fast” (Hypothyroidism is a thing, so it could be, but I doubt you have it). Other areas include, relationships, academics, sports – really in any area you want to improve in.
In this, I think there is an important lesson. There are two ways YOU can CHOOSE to view challenges, setbacks, and goals in life. Either with a fixed mindset or with a growth mindset that empowers YOU. I emphasize your personal agency in these situations, because I believe our perspective is an important starting point in the journey towards any goal. As I write this, it is interesting to understand how the concepts of growth and fixed mindset are the theoretical foundations to the material many bloggers, coaches, and speakers might use. I don’t think this is recycled content, because I believe understanding the theoretical background to this material is important. I hope you find it interesting or useful. I believed understanding these concepts were important to my success in the past few years. However, recently at the start of my new job, I was introduced to a seemingly contrasting concept of which I hope to write about soon.
I have really wrote the bare minimum that could be said about these concepts. More could be said about the characteristics of the mindsets, how to identify them in yourself and other people, and how to shift your thinking from fixed to growth. If you would like to learn more, please leave a comment or message me. Otherwise, I highly recommend reading Carol Dweck’s book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” (or at least the first few chapters).