In a crude and simple way, people can be divided into two groups: those who mostly believe their skills, talents, and abilities are largely maxed out, and those who believe they still have room for growth.
This is important because having a fixed mindset severely limits your ability to learn new things and improve your performance. It also limits your willingness to try hard and deliver top-quality results. People with fixed mindsets tend to be interested in feedback — particularly information on whether or not they have performed well on a given task, project, or goal — but not in learning or trying to improve.
What’s truly sad, however, is that scientific study indicates the notions behind a fixed mindset — that your intelligence, skills and abilities cannot increase, no matter what you do — are wrong.
The brain’s neuroplasticity — it’s ability to learn, change, and form new connections in response to experiences and opportunities — actually continues well into adult-hood. This means you can use your everyday experiences, mistakes, and feedback as opportunities for significantly growing your skills and abilities.
Here are some ways to change your mindset toward continuing growth:
Recognize When You Feel Fixed
Any with any problem, the first step in resolving it is recognizing that you have it. There are several techniques to help you recognize any degree of a fixed mindset.
First, think back on your history and look for patterns of growth in your skills and abilities. This growth may not be linear or steady, but it should not have flatlined. If you’re at the same level of proficiency and expertise as you were several years ago, your mindset may well be fixed.
Second, think about the future, and particularly about expanding your skills and abilities. Do you have any interests you’d like to explore further? Any plans for continuing education or new experiences? Any commitments to deliver specific results for the first time? If not, your mindset may be keeping you stagnant.
Third, review your feelings and attitudes toward some of your past tasks, projects, and goals. If you view your relative “wins” as matters of luck and your relative “losses” as proof of your limitations, you’re likely harboring a fixed mindset.
It’s the same if you feel you were foolish or wrong to try some of the tasks, projects, and goals you attempted, or if you feel you wasted your time and effort, or that you learned nothing from the experience. These feelings are strong indications your mindset is too firmly anchored in fixation.
Recognize That Change is Possible
No matter how fixed your mindset, no matter how long it has been that way, your brain is nevertheless capable of growth, change, and learning. That’s how brains work.
But to get this growth started, you must first believe it’s possible. To do this:
- Recognize that believing in the possibility of change is a more positive way to live. It leads to hope, and hope opens the door to improvement. If you believe change is not possible, you’re doomed to a future that simply echoes the disappointments of your past.
- Accept the science. Psychologists have conducted countless studies that show change is not only possible, it’s downright common. What’s more, studies show that a positive outlook leads to better health and longer life.
- Accept the anecdotes. There are countless stories circulating among family, friends, and the media recounting how individuals experienced profound changes for the better. Some changes come from external events, some come from internal realizations or experiences. Sometimes, people change just because they decide to.
In fact, if you think back in your own life, you’ll almost certainly remember times when you experienced major changes. I’m not talking just about your changes since childhood. You’ve changed as a result of people you’ve met, events you’ve experienced, and ideas you’ve encountered.
Since you’ve already changed in the past, there’s every possibility that you can undergo more changes in the future.
Try a Small Change
The ability to change never dies, but it does become weaker with disuse. That’s why you shouldn’t expect to go from your current level of a fixed mindset to total flexibility and growth in a single step.
Instead, try a small change, then another, and gradually build up to a level of flexibility that allows you to change and grow in response to both events and your own intentions.
Small ways to start converting to a growth mindset might include:
- Take a simple starter course (golf?, computers?, art?, dance?) or learn a new skill
- Join a new group and try to learn what makes the other members tick
- Go someplace you’ve never been and dig into its history and culture
- Spend a few hours exploring your friends’ favorite reading material
Studies show that having a growth mindset is more important to productivity and success than any amount of raw intelligence or talent with which you were born. A growth mindset allows you to benefit from everything that happens to you as you try to make the most of your work and your life.
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