Fixed Or Growth? Success & The Science Behind Your Mindset

Mindset and the power of belief. It’s the difference between good and great; between winning a state championship and an international championship. Our empirically dominated culture often leads us to become blind to the significance of belief. Indeed, here’s one way belief is defined, “Confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof.” 

Not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof. But we demand rigorous proof before we will believe. Typically, our reality shapes our beliefs. However, for those who are chasing after goals and dreams, flipping the switch and changing your beliefs may be the breakthrough that fuels you toward success.

The powerful effect of belief upon reality has been well documented with the placebo effect. Princeton researchers set up a keg party but didn’t tell participants they’d be drinking non-alcoholic beer. Although it was impossible to physically get drunk, the belief that they were drinking regular beer caused them to slur their words and even 'pass out' on the ground. And of course, medically, the placebo effect continues to baffle researchers with its physiological effects.

Looking at the connection between mindset and achievement, the pioneering work of Dr. Carol Dweck from Stanford University has helped to shape the way we’ve traditionally approached education and motivation. Her research on human intelligence and performance is divided into two mindset theories: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.

Those to hold to the fixed mindset believe that intelligence is fixed from birth, there's no way the leopard can change its spots; you're stuck with what you've got. On the other hand, those who believe in the growth mindset see intelligence as fluid, that a dog can always learn new tricks; that growth and improvement will come as a result of applying oneself. 

The practical outcomes of each respective mindset were tracked in a study that exposed each group to tasks that guaranteed failures and mistakes. Using brain monitoring technology, those who believed that intelligence can improve (growth mindset) showed neurological responses that devoted more brain activity in the self-monitoring faculties—the brain allocated attention to self-generated errors and then worked to adjust behaviour accordingly. Those had believed intelligence was fixed produced no such neurological response, the brain simply hit a brick wall when encountering a problem. 

So begin to start cultivating a growth mindset. That means stepping away from the traditional beliefs that say you’ve either “got it” or you don’t. While there are certainly talents that are inherent—there’s no arguing that certain people are born with amazing gifts—it absolutely does not mean these gifts and talents are impossible to work towards. 

One practical way to develop and experience a growth mindset is to devote 21 days to an activity or skill you’ve desired to learn, but perhaps felt as though beyond your ability. Whether it's a language, a musical instrument, or education, daily devotion and practice for 21 is a significant enough amount of time for tangible results. Your brain will go through a process of neurogenesis and lay down new neural pathways as it learns to process new information.

Of course, the excitement of your new growth-mindset experience will transfer over to all your other goals. Rather than feeling defeated when encountering obstacles, you’ll be motivated with the reality of growth and only see opportunities.

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