How To Grow Your Mind

What’s Your Mindset? 

One of the most impactful books I’ve ever read is Mindset by Carol Dweck.  I recommend that you buy and read it immediately.

What does mindset mean? I like to define it as a collection of thoughts and beliefs that determine what you believe is possible and how the world works.  As I’ve discussed before, your thoughts create your results, so it’s worth looking at which type of mindset you have.

Dweck holds that there are two types of mindsets: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

The Fixed Mindset

People with the fixed mindset believe that you either have certain abilities or you don’t, and if you don’t naturally (or currently) have an ability, you might as well give up and go home.

Here are some examples of the fixed mindset:

  • People are either naturally talented or they aren’t. If you can’t do something easily or well from the outset, it’s best to do something else.
  • You’re either smart or dumb. There’s no way to grow your intelligence.
  • If you have to work hard at something, it means you’re not naturally gifted.
  • You’re either creative or you’re not. If you’re not creative, don’t even try to come up with ideas.  Leave that to the creatives.
  • Relationships are either meant to be or not. If we have to work at our relationship, it means we’re not meant to be together.
  • You either have an ear for music or you don’t. Don’t even try to pick up an instrument if you’re not naturally gifted.
  • You are either confident or you’re not.

The biggest flaw with the fixed mindset is that it’s a complete lie.  It’s simply not grounded in reality.  The people who are doing big things in the world are working hard, developing their skills and talents, and growing their abilities.  History books, biographies, and auto-biographies of successful artists, writers, inventors, scientists, etc. show us that people learn and develop as they go.  They try things and fail, they learn, they keep trying and failing, they keep learning, and eventually they create the results they want.

The fixed mindset is also the biggest dream-stealer on the planet.  The belief that you can’t learn something new and grow your mind is not only untrue, but it creates the feeling of discouragement, which drives people to give up or never even try in the first place.

And it’s not just those deemed “untalented” who are limited by the fixed mindset.  People who are naturally talented and believe in the fixed mindset are also harmed by it because they have the fear that if they try something new and fail, it would mean that they’ve lost their talents or abilities.  They believe it’s better to stay safe with what they know than trying to innovate or develop.

The Growth Mindset 

Thankfully, there’s another (much better) mindset: the growth mindset.  According to Dweck, this mindset recognizes that people have an amazing capacity to learn, grow, and improve over time.  According to the growth mindset, innate talent is pretty much irrelevant:  it’s what you do with whatever talent you have that matters.

The growth mindset is also backed up by science.  Dweck has proven in her research that people can grow their intelligence, creativity, confidence, skills, abilities, and even the quality of their relationships through hard work and trial and error.  But here’s the amazing thing:  the main factor that determines whether a person will actually grow her abilities is her understanding that her mind is capable of growing.

To prove this, Dweck’s team taught the growth mindset to a group of school kids by showing them that every time they stretched to learn something new and difficult, the neurons in their brain would form new and stronger connections and over time they could get smarter.  But they did not give this same lesson to the control group.  Then, Dweck’s team watched the grades of the both groups over the next semester.

The grades of the kids who had been taught the growth mindset started getting better and better, whereas the grades of the kids in the control group got worse over time.   (After the study was over, her team decided to teach the control group about the growth mindset, too.)

To learn more, you can see Carol Dweck’s amazing Ted Talk here:

You Can Change Your Mindset

Just like the kids in Dweck’s study, just knowing about the growth mindset gives you the ability to change your own mindset.  So now that you’ve read this post, you have the ability to change your mindset.

After I learned about the growth mindset, I decided to learn how to play the guitar.  Dweck’s book allowed me to realize playing the guitar was available to me, whereas I had previously believed that it wasn’t.  All it took was understanding that I could grow my mind.  Learning the guitar was hard, especially at first.  But the knowledge that the more I practiced, the more neural connections I could form in my brain allowed me to power through and keep trying.  And it worked because now I can play songs that seemed impossible when I started.

It’s also possible to have a growth mindset in some areas of your life, but a fixed mindset in others.  For example, you might believe that you can develop your skills in your current job, but think that becoming more creative or entrepreneurial is impossible for you.  Dweck’s book shows us that beliefs like this are completely optional.

In what areas of your life have you been applying a fixed mindset?  Now that you know that you can grow your mind if you’re willing to take on the challenge and stretch yourself, what are you going to learn?  What skills would you love to master?  What would you love to do that you always believed you couldn’t do because you weren’t talented, smart, or creative, or brave enough?  Now that you know, you can grow.  It’s a beautiful thing.

So go forth, grow, and bloom!



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