What do you tell yourself when you fail?
Your answer to this question can lead you to an important and life changing insight about yourself.
Our thoughts, feelings and actions are influenced by our beliefs. Sometimes we may not be aware what those beliefs are or how they got there, but they influence our actions nonetheless.
“Whether they’re aware of it or not, all people keep a running account of what’s happening to them, what it means, and what they should do. In other words, our minds are constantly monitoring and interpreting. That’s just how we stay on track.”
These beliefs are powerful and they could determine whether we succeed on our personal, professional and relationship goals. It also determines how we respond to failure.
So where does mindset come in?
“Mindsets frame the running account that’s taking place in people’s heads. They guide the whole interpretation process.”
Our mindset determines how we interpret our experiences, it explains why people react differently given the same situation, it’s because we have different mindsets. So the question about failure, it’s to determine what type of mindset you fall into.
This book actually came out of Dr. Carol Dweck’s study of how people cope with failure. In her research, she studied children and gave them difficult puzzles to solve and watched how they responded. She expected them to react badly, but she was surprised to find out that some kids reacted with enthusiasm when faced with difficulty. What came out in her research, is that there are two diverging mindsets that can account for the two contrasting reactions to failure. They discovered how these two mindsets impact every aspect of our lives.
Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset
A fixed mindset is the belief that your basic intelligence, qualities, traits and many aspects of yourself cannot be changed, regardless of effort. It’s either you have it or you don’t. The growth mindset on the other hand is a belief that though people vary in their initial qualities, everyone can change, with consistent application of effort.
If you answered the question about failure, with something along the lines of
“I’m a total failure.”
“I’m an idiot.”
“Life stinks. I’m stupid. Nothing good ever to happens to me.”
then that puts you in the fixed mindset. If on the other hand your answer is somewhere along the lines of
“I need to try harder”
“This is hard, this is fun”
“I love a challenge!”
then you belong to the growth mindset camp.
On the surface it may look like it might just be a matter of confidence, it seems that the people in the fixed mindset group are just lacking confidence while the growth mindset group have an abundance of it. But this was discussed in the book, Dr. Carol Dweck, interviewed several students to test it. In their test, they all began with the same confidence in their skills before they tried learning a new skill. What was different was what happened while learning, those who had a growth mindset gained confidence even though they were having a difficult time and making a lot of mistakes, the fixed mindset group in contrast lost confidence because of the mistakes they were making.
The coping mechanisms when it comes to failure of the two mindsets are starkly different. For the fixed mindset group, “they’d see what happened as a direct measure of their competence and worth”, if they don’t see making an effort as something that could make a difference, they resort to unhealthy and even destructive behaviors to cope. The growth mindset group on the other hand would also feel upset, but they would cope directly, by looking for ways to get better.
The mindset you have can greatly affect the way you learn, that alone can have a profound impact on your life. You can be handicapped severely in the world where constant learning is necessary to keep up with rapid development of our ever changing technology, if you think that effort does not matter.
“The fixed mindset limits achievement. It fills people’s minds with interfering thoughts, it makes effort disagreeable, and it leads to inferior learning strategies. What’s more, it makes other people into judges instead of allies. “
But it can also affect your relationships. Consider the answers of the fixed mindset people who were interviewed about what they view as characteristics of their ideal mates,
“Put them on a pedestal”
“Make them feel perfect”
contrast that to people with growth mindset,
“See their faults and help them to work on them”
“Challenge them to become a better person”
“Encourage them to learn new things.”
It get’s more complicated with relationships, because your mindset determines how you look at yourself, your partner and your relationship. If you have a fixed mindset, you would expect your relationship to be perfect from the start, and any hint of a problem means the relationship is doomed or not meant to be. They attribute problems to irreparable character or personality traits, they resort to blame instead of communicating and working on the relationship. Growth mindset people on the other hand knows that relationships need work and communication which makes them more ready to work things out if needed.
Change Is Possible
If you are reading this and identifying yourself in the fixed mindset camp and saying to yourself, “Oh my god that’s me, just my luck to have that stupid mindset, too bad, what a waste”. STOP. Please stop because that is the fixed mindset talking, it is just a belief, and it can be changed! This is the reason why Dr. Dweck, reiterated the differences between the two mindsets and pointed out the numerous advantages of the growth mindset in detail, because people with fixed mindset need a shove not just a nudge in convincing them that it’s not permanent and it can be changed with effort! The author herself had a fixed mindset before she did her research. She talked about her experiences and transformation in the book.
The point is, your can change to a growth mindset with her four step process ( via Dr.Dweck’s website )
Step 1: Learn to hear your fixed mindset voice
Step 2: Recognize that you have a choice
Step 3: Talk back to it with the growth mindset voice
Step 4: Take the growth mindset action
Change the way you talk to yourself:
In addition, you could also redefine success and failure.
Success: doing your best, learning, improving
Failure: challenge, feedback, wake up call, a way to get better
You could start asking these questions at the end of your day, discuss them with your family or write them in your journal.
What did I learn today?
What mistakes did I make that taught me something?
What did you try hard today?
Book Summary of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
- Mindsets guide our interpretation process
- Fixed mindset means we believe our traits are fixed while growth mindset means we believe our traits can be improved through effort.
- The mindset we have affects everything we do, it affects how we learn, how we work, and even how we resolve conflicts in our relationships
- Change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset is possible, we can do that by being aware of how talk to ourselves, especially when we fail. We can then start replacing our fixed mindset inner dialogues with a growth mindset one.
- Change will not happen overnight but with consistent application of the steps, it can be done.
What I thought about it
This book is life changing for me. I read this years ago, and I was dismayed to find out I had a fixed mindset. It explained a lot of things to me. I wish I had read it even earlier, back when I was in grade school. I wasn’t a bad student, but I could have been a better one and less anxious too. This is the book that I wish everyone would read, especially parents. Kids would really benefit from it if their parents read it, she has some great advice in it on how to raise a kid to develop a growth mindset. I think the world would truly be a better place if more people develop a growth mindset. I recommend this book to everybody.
→ action steps to take to translate what I learned into action
- Every weekend, reflect back on the week that was and answer the 3 questions.
- What did I learn this week?
- What mistakes did I make that taught me something?
- What did I try hard this week?
- Ask myself what aspects my life do I hold a fixed mindset. Start being aware of what I say to myself during those times, and then start replacing it with the growth mindset dialogue.
→ short, easy-to-remember rules I can set for myself to follow the principles of the book
- Grow or stagnate? Choose grow.
- If it’s a skill, I can learn it with enough resources and time, next step find out how. Progress, not perfection.
- If I fail, ask what did I learn, how can I do it differently, not think I can’t do it or I am a failure.
Interested in finding out more? Here are some helpful links …