What’s the key difference between the greats in any field and the might-have-beens?

Mindset photo

The answer is the story of two belief systems: the first and most common one holds you back, makes you miserable and can lead you down the path to unethical behavior; the second one frees you, arms you with the courage and strength to persevere in the face of obstacles and setbacks, and helps you to achieve your full potential.

Which of these mindsets would YOU prefer?

Actually, you chose a mindset a long time ago. Though you may not realize it, you’ve been living your life, making decisions, and paying the price (or reaping the rewards) in accordance to that choice ever since. So, whether or not you’re bringing your boldest self to whatever you’re doing right now, depends on the choice of mindset you made long ago.

That’s why a better question might be, which mindset did you choose?

In her 2006 gem of a book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Prof. Carol S. Dweck explains that people can be clumped into one of two groups:

  1. Those with the “fixed mindset.”
  2. Those with the “growth mindset.”

Fixed mindset people see all their qualities as static and immovable—completely carved in stone. They believe that the intelligence, abilities, personality and even moral character of people cannot be significantly changed. Sure, you might budge any of these things a degree or two, but these qualities are pretty much set at the factory (so to speak).

So what happens if you believe that your qualities are fixed?

Well, since the fixed mindset is a completely binary interpretation of human potential, you often torture yourself or adopt self-defeating behaviors. Or both.

As professor Dweck tells us:

I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves—in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?

But there’s a better way and it’s called the growth mindset:

[The] growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way—in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments—everyone can change and grow through application and experience.

But wait:

Do people with this [growth mindset] believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.

So now, what do you choose to believe?

Personally, I need to confess. Though it pains me to admit it, I’ve been a proud, card-carrying member of the fixed mindset club for a long time. But as I look back on my life I can see when and how I’ve paid a steep price for having such a limited belief in myself and others.

But I’m not alone. Most people have a fixed view of what’s possible for themselves and others.

Mindset is a survey of how the interplay between fixed and growth mindsets has impacted the world of sports, business leadership, relationships, and parenting—for better and for worse. It’s a breezy, engaging and fascinating read.

And in the final chapter Prof. Dweck provides a blueprint for change for those of us ready to embrace the growth mindset.

So, if you want to be a better leader, parent, spouse or human being; if you’re eager to get closer to what you really want in life; towards the realization of your full potential; then you owe it to yourself to read this book and hold it close to your heart. This is one of those books that will rock your world and change your life.

But beware, embracing the growth mindset, like installing a new operating system on your computer, is no trivial task. It will take time, work, and grit to make the change stick. Then it will take constant practice to maintain.

But boy, will it be worth it!

Happy reading!