Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
I tried and tried and tried like a million times and failed. Might be my damn genes. Or the environment didn’t cooperate and it’s just my fate to fail for eternity. I’ll just be happy with whatever I have.
Almost always, everyone fail. It’s common and there’s nothing wrong about it. We fail to achieve the so called “New Year Resolution” to read 50 books a year or reduce 20 kgs. Or maybe you didn’t finish the new project that was planned or didn’t acquire the new skill that you craved for.
And we excuse ourselves saying,
- “Ohh!! I was busy and couldn’t spend time on it” — This usually occurs not because you don’t have time but you didn’t prioritize that task i.e something more important came into your life. And this is perfectly okay until you start bluffing yourself. The moment you feel that you are trying to prove a point (thus forcing yourself), it’s time to revisit your goals.
- “I am already talented. It’s just in my genes. I don’t think I need to spend so much time. I can achieve without any hard work. I am born for this”, and thus procrastinating the task.
- “I am not at all talented. It’s no use spending time on this as I can’t understand any of this stuff. Every time I tried, I failed no matter what” and thus not starting the task at all (or procrastinating after some attempts)
Check for which statements you agree more:
- Your intelligence is something very basic/inherent and there’s nothing much you can change.
- You can learn new things, but you can’t really change how intelligent you are.
- No matter how much intelligence you have, you can change it a bit.
- You can always change your intelligence by a greater amount.
The first 2 questions align with your fixed mindset i.e I am who I was already inherited and there’s nothing more to change while 3,4 align towards growth mindset i.e there’s always something I can change about every aspect of my life.
Everyone is a mixture of both fixed and growth mindsets and one dominates the other based on the occasion.
Eg: When it comes to book reading or losing weight, I believe I can improve by spending quality time thus exhibiting growth mindset. But when it comes to learning an art like painting, dancing, language etc; I believe that I can’t learn and improve because these skills are inherent (or something we need to learn from childhood) thus exhibiting fixed mindset i.e being stubborn that I can’t learn.
How to know which mindset you are in?
Before answering this, it should be clear that there’s no borderline and criteria which makes you fall into one mindset. These mindsets are just a list of traits/qualities and obviously, there’ll be overlaps.
Try to answer the following for yourself:
- I enjoy when I get an easy task which can be completed with minimal effort and learning.
- I enjoy when I get a difficult task which needs some effort and learning and am not sure whether it can be completed.
- I want the final answer, I am not interested in the process.
- I am interested to get clues while solving a difficult task, it’s okay if it takes time.
- I need to prove than I am better than others.
- I need to improve, though I might be considered as dumb by others.
- I am entitled for good things that happen in life, because I am born to live a good life.
- I will work and achieve what I want, rather than blaming others.
- I am already smart, it’s in my genes. I can sustain, live happily forever without learning.
- I need to learn constantly to sustain.
If you agree more to the odd numbered statements (italicized), you exhibit fixed mindset. If you align more towards even numbered statements, you exhibit growth mindset.
Irrespective of the mindset we belong to, we can always change it through simple practices.
Key 0— Focus on process, not on results
I guess everyone might have heard that it’s the process that’s important not the results. Why?
The answer lies in mindset. People with fixed mindset can’t stretch their abilities, don’t want new challenges, so they just want to get the final output (as there’s nothing much to change). While people with growth mindset constantly strive to improve their abilities, so they inherently focus more on the process thus enjoying the work they do.
“Destination is important, but it’s the journey that really matters.”
Key 1 — Don’t praise someone for what they achieve. Praise for how they achieve.
This might be contradictory but assume the scenario where you are working on a project which might fetch you an award. Possible outcomes are:
- You worked so hard and you won the award.
- You worked so hard but you didn’t win the award.
- You didn’t work so hard but you won the award.
- You didn’t work so hard and didn’t win the award.
While case 4 is straight forward, the others are bit tricky. Usually people end up praising when someone wins (i.e case 1 and 3) thus emphasizing on what they achieved, but one has to praise (or get praised) only if it involves effort (i.e case 1 and 2) thus emphasizing on how they achieved or what they did to achieve. Why?
Though you won the award in Case 3, it’s just sheer luck. As time progress, you might fail which leads to depression etc; as you might be tuned to fixed mindset.
Don’t take rest after your first victory because if you fail in second, more lips are waiting to say that your first victory was just luck — APJ Abdul Kalam
It’s okay if you tried hard but didn’t fetch an award (like Case 2), as it will eventually help you to grow. And in Case 1, you have to specifically mention why you are praising someone (because they might assume that they were praised for what they achieved)
I understand willpower, enthusiasm, hard-work, motivation etc; are important for growth. But how can I change my mindset?
While all the qualities are important, without proper mindset, they perish in the long-run.
Eg: Suppose you want to lose 20 kgs. You can do crash diet and achieve your goal within weeks. But if you don’t take care, the weight will rebound. In this example, your willpower and persistence to reduce weight is good but it has to be accompanied with the right mindset i.e after you achieve your goal, you need to accept that you have to strive to maintain it. In other words, there’s no free lunch.
All these qualities are tools and with proper mindset, they will be polished and used in the right way. There’s no straight-forward algorithm and it depends on each individual. A rough guide as suggested in the book is:
Step 1: Embrace your fixed mindset
First, agree that you have fixed mindset. The most important step for someone to change is the realization that they have to change.
We are, most of the time, our own worst enemy. Which is perhaps a good thing because we can change.
Step 2: Understand what triggers your fixed mindset
Usually it triggers when
- We start something big — Because of intimidation, lack of talent, long-term goal, big picture etc;
- We fail, miss deadlines — We start blaming ourselves, others etc;
- We get challenged — If you see someone achieving more than you in something that you are proud of, it might hurt your self esteem.
- We can’t even listen others opinion with patience— It’s okay whether you accept their opinion or not, but it’s important to have an open-mind irrespective of your expertise in the area. Because once you listen to something that contradicts your belief, the fixed mindset invokes saying “Come on, leave it. You are already better. You don’t need this. They are just blabbering etc;”
Step 3: Give it a persona
Imagine a person who has all these characteristics. Give that person a name.
Step 4: Transform it
Now talk to the persona just like you talk to others and convince why it is important to change the way he/she thinks. Explain to the persona that it is possible to change by giving some real life examples or theories.
In short, have an interactive discussion with yourself everyday. Because changing mindset is not about picking up a few tips here and there. It’s about making a radical and permanent change in the way you think about life.
Book suggested by Uday Girish Maradana
Personal Website: https://namburisrinath.github.io
Medium Handle: namburisrinath.medium.com