How to Develop a “Growth Mindset”: Achieve Success By Changing the Way You Think
Either you’re born with it, or you’re screwed. There’s no use practicing or trying to get better. This is as good as it gets.
This way of thinking is toxic, and it represents what we call a “fixed” mindset. Basically, someone with a fixed mindset believes that there’s nothing they can do to improve their abilities.
We get fed this lie all the time in daily life: “Anna is gifted.” “Jenna is a natural athlete.” “Jimmy just doesn’t have a head for math.” “I’m just not a writer.”
This way of thinking not only keeps people stagnant, it also undercuts the effort that so-called “gifted” people have put into their talents.
Give Up or Get Good?
Now, I am a full believer in the idea of doubling down on what you’re good at, and I’m not denying that different people have different natural abilities. After all, someone who is 6′3 is probably going to have an easier time playing basketball than someone who’s 5′5. In the same way, I try to play to my strengths as much as possible.
I’m just going to say it: I don’t get coding. I’ve tried it, and I can figure it out if I need to. I just hate it, and thinking in terms of code does not come naturally to me.
With that in mind, I’m going to choose to enlist some help from others when I need to. That way, I can focus my time and energy into the areas where I know I can more meaningfully contribute.
HOWEVER, even if you’re not “naturally” good at something, that doesn’t mean that you can never improve upon a disadvantage.
This is what we call a “growth” mindset—the recognition that you do ultimately have control over your level of ability.
Remember that basketball example? Well, here are the tallest and shortest players in NBA history. Manute Bol is technically tied for the tallest at 7′7, and Muggsy Bogues is 5′3.
Muggsy is also the Charlotte Hornets’ all-time leader in assists and steals. What many would have seen as a weakness, he used as a strength. His height allowed him to weave around bigger players and put the ball where it couldn’t be stolen. All the while Muggsy doesn’t want to be remembered for his height or his achievements. He wants to be remembered as “a guy that never backed down, believed in whatever he thought that he could accomplish and when he was out there, we would accomplish it.”
That’s a growth mindset. It doesn’t matter that he had a natural “disadvantage.” Instead, he focused on playing to his strengths and improving his abilities to counter any perceived weakness. He didn’t just give up and say, “Oh well, I’m just not cut out for this.”
Life beats you up sometimes, or it deals you a difficult hand. You can look around you and see people who were seemingly born on third base while you were born on the bench, but that’s not how things have to stay.
Some things—like your height—can’t be changed, but your response to those things certainly can. In the same way, even if it’s true that you have a natural disadvantage when it comes to math or writing or communication, you can still improve upon those circumstances.
The Leaky Roof: Small Steps to Success
To take the first steps toward personal growth, you need to start thinking beyond the day-to-day, task-to-task. You need to start thinking about the big picture.
Progress is slow, and it may take a while to get to the point where you can see real improvement. That’s why you can’t just look at day-to-day progress. The changes will be so minute that you will not be able to recognize it in the short-term. That will be discouraging, but think of it this way:
Have you ever seen a leaky roof? Either in real life or in a movie. Think of a bucket placed under that leak. You can’t see an effect from the individual rain drops themselves. The change in the water level from just one drop is imperceptible. However, over the course of a few hours, the bucket is noticeably fuller.
That’s how progress works. It doesn’t come all at once. Dramatic “breakthrough” moments are rare, if they happen at all. You will, however, see a difference eventually.
If you just get 1% closer to your goal every single day—like rain drops in a bucket— you’ll achieve what you’re working toward in 100 days.
While it may feel like you’re standing still in the moment, when you look back at those last 100 days, you’ll see how far you’ve truly come.