BY BRIANNA WIEST
Of all the beliefs we carry about ourselves, Carol Dweck argues there is one that stands out among the rest. After 20 years of research, she concluded that the way we approach the acquisition of intelligence actually carves out whether or not we’ll be successful. There are two particular mindsets people have, “incremental” or “entity.” Incremental is the belief that intelligence and skill can be grown and developed; entity is the belief that intelligence and skill is fixed, and you either have it or you don’t.
In the “fixed mindset,” our character, intelligence and creative abilities are static givens. They cannot change or evolve at all, and success is how the world validates that inherent intelligence, or how well it measures up against the world’s fixed standard. In this mindset, people strive for an image and idea of success at any cost, as they belief that failure indicates they are not skilled or intelligent.
In the “growth mindset,” character, intelligence and creative ability are evolving aspects of who we are – your skill will develop in proportion to how much work you do. People with this mindset see failure as feedback, something that informs them of what doesn’t work so that they can then adapt to what would.
These mindsets are typically adopted at a very young age, and determine not only our behavior within business, but also marriage, personal relations, and ultimately, our capacity to experience happiness.
For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value. How does this happen? How can a simple belief have the power to transform your psychology and, as a result, your life?
Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics.
There’s another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand you’re dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This 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.