When it comes to our attitude towards learning there are two types of people. You probably know both types. One of them gives up easily and is uninterested in learning new things. She says things like: “I’m no good at this, so I can’t learn it” or “I’m really good at this, so I don’t have to challenge myself”. Meanwhile the other type loves to learn. She engages in new subjects all the time and is infinitely curious about how things work.
That we are able to have such different attitudes towards learning puzzled researcher Carol Dweck way back in the 1970’s where she first became aware of the difference among children. She describes the two attitudes as a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, respectively.
According to Dweck, the mindset or thought pattern you have is very significant because your mindset predicts your level of achievement. It deals with how you perceive “learning”. Whether you believe talent is something we are born with, something we either have or don't have. Or whether you believe talent is something you can develop through hard work, good strategies and other inputs. If you have a growth mindset you will achieve better results, according to Dweck.
The good news is that you can change your thought pattern any time.
In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck describes how people with a fixed mindset believe that our capabilities are carved in stone. While people with growth mindsets embrace challenges, are persistent when they are challenged, see effort as the way to mastery and learn from other people’s successes.
Test your mindset
Consider the following statement:
1. Your intelligence is something fundamental about you that you cannot change much.
2. You can learn new things, but you cannot really change how intelligent you are.
3. No matter how intelligent you are you can always change that quite a lot.
4. You can always and to a large degree change how intelligent you are.
Which statement do agree with the most?
If you agree most with 1 or 2, then according to Dweck, you have a fixed mindset. If you agree more with 3 or 4 you have a growth mindset.
Try replacing intelligence with one of these areas; business skills, a physical talent, artistic talent or personality. Is your attitude the same? According to Dweck it is not unusual to have a different mindset in each area.
As mentioned, you are not lost if you've just discovered that within certain areas you have a fixed mindset. You can always change your mindset. At Carol Dweck’s webpage, mindsetonline.com, you can read more about what to do. Below we have merely sketched the four steps of changing your mindset.