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By Shane Parrish
March 31, 2015
IDEAS
Shane Parrish writes Farnam Street

Carol Dweck studies human motivation. She spends her days diving into why people succeed (or don’t) and what’s within our control to foster success.

As she describes it: “My work bridges developmental psychology, social psychology, and personality psychology, and examines the self-conceptions (or mindsets) people use to structure the self and guide their behavior. My research looks at the origins of these mindsets, their role in motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes.”

Her inquiry into our beliefs is synthesized in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The book takes us on a journey into how our conscious and unconscious thoughts affect us and how something as simple as wording can have a powerful impact on our ability to improve.

Dweck’s work shows the power of our most basic beliefs. Whether conscious or subconscious, they strongly “affect what we want and whether we succeed in getting it.” Much of what we think we understand of our personality comes from our “mindset.” This both propels us and prevents us from fulfilling our potential.

In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck writes:

The Two Mindsets

Carol Dweck

Your view of yourself can determine everything. If you believe that your qualities are unchangeable — the fixed mindset — you will want to prove yourself over and over.

In Mindset, Dweck writes:

These things are culturally desirable. We value intelligence, personality, and character. It’s normal to want this. But …

In Mindset, Dweck writes:

Changing our beliefs can have a powerful impact. The growth mindset creates a powerful passion for learning. “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are,” Dweck writes, “when you could be getting better?”

***

Our ideas about risk and effort come from our mindset. Some people realize the value of challenging themselves, they want to put in the effort to learn and grow, a great example of this is The Buffett Formula. Others, however, would rather avoid the effort feeling like it doesn’t matter.

In Mindset, Dweck writes:

***

The mindset affects creativity too.

In Mindset, Dweck writes:

In fact Dweck takes this stoic approach, writing: “in the growth mindset, failure can be a painful experience. But it doesn’t define you. It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from.”

We can still learn from our mistakes. The legendary basketball coach John Wooden says that you’re not a failure until you start to assign blame. That’s when you stop learning from your mistakes – you deny them.

***

In this TED talk, Dweck describes “two ways to think about a problem that’s slightly too hard for you to solve.” Operating in this space — just outside of your comfort zone — is the key to improving your performance. It’s also the critical element to deliberate practice. People approach these problems with the two mindsets …. “Are you not smart enough to solve it …. or have you just not solved it yet.”

Speaking to the cultural pressure to raise our kids for now instead of not yet, in the TED talk Dweck says:

It’s easy to fall into the trap of now. Our kids become obsessed with getting A’s – they dream of the next test to prove themselves instead of dreaming big like Elon Musk. A by-product of this is that we’re making them dependent on the validation that we’re giving them — the gamification of children.

What can we do about this? Don’t praise intelligence or talent, praise the work ethic.

How we word things affects confidence, the words ‘yet’ or ‘not yet,’ “give kids greater confidence, give them a path into the future that creates greater persistence.” We can change mindsets.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is a must read for anyone looking to explore our mindset and how we can influence it to be a little better. Carol Dweck’s work is simply outstanding.

This piece originally appeared on Farnam Street.

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