I’ve got a really simple question for you. Your answer to that question will determine whether you will be successful in life. You ready?
The question is this: Can you, personally, change and become better?
Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology and researcher in the field of motivation, is a pioneer in researching elements of a successful mindset. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, she presented her years-long research which concluded that there are two general types of mindset a person can have: fixed mindset or growth mindset.
Those with a fixed mindset believe you are born with certain psychological attributions that cannot be changed. They avoid challenges, feel threatened by others, and see failure as a negative outcome of their actions. They believe intelligence is static and, as a result, often achieve far less than their potential.
Those with a growth mindset believe you can develop your abilities if you put in enough effort. They embrace challenges, get inspired by others’ success, and see failure as a chance to learn and improve. As a result, they achieve significantly more in every area of life.
So how is it possible that your beliefs can determine your reality?
The way you think is the way you act
People with a growth mindset believe they can achieve more if they apply themselves — so they apply themselves more. It’s not that they are naturally predisposed to be more successful in life, it’s their mindset that drives them towards a more successful lifestyle.
This is how Prof. Dweck summed it up:
For 20 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.Carol Dweck
It’s not that somebody is a “born winner” or a “born loser”. Strong, confident personalities are developed through habits, actions, and choices. Of course, your upbringing and environment play a large role in making this easier/harder but you are ultimately responsible for your own choices.
If you believe you are destined to be unlucky, broke, shy, stupid, or whatever, you will never attempt to change these things. I mean, if you are “destined” to be this way, you can’t change it. But if you believe that all of these things are temporary, that your personality is temporary, that you can change through actions and choices, then you will.
Instead of crying “boo hoo, my life is hard”, you will say “fuck that shit” and find ways you can change your life.
Fixed Mindset is like an Infection
Think of a fixed mindset as an infectious disease:
The more time you spend around infected people, the higher the chances of you getting infected. Once you get the disease, it slowly destroys your mindset. You feel progressively worse, want to simply stay in bed and watch TV, and complain about how things suck. You don’t feel strong enough and it’s not going to go away on its own.
If you think of yourself as weak, you will project that in your actions. People will sense this, often subconsciously, and think “Why would I respect them if they don’t even respect themselves?” When that happens, you will feel like an unappreciated outcast and will be scared to meet new people. All of this will, in turn, make you feel angry and powerless, destroying your confidence and self-esteem. You will become increasingly more anxious which will only make everything worse.
The fixed mindset is the cause of your infection. You usually don’t realize this because you look at each symptom separately:
- Being scared to talk to girls/guys, feeling shy, unsocial
- Being taken advantage of, feeling angry or weak
- Low self-esteem, no confidence
- Being anxious, not standing up for yourself
You try to fix each of these issues on their own but, ultimately, you don’t feel stronger or more confident because the cause of the disease is still there. By focusing on dealing with the cause, most symptoms will simply get taken care of on their own.
If you think of yourself as a strong and powerful individual, you will walk with pride. People will love the energy you send out and will treat you with respect because you act as though you deserve it. Consequently, you will feel confident and will have no trouble meeting new people. As a result, you will feel happier and wonder how you ever managed to live life any other way.
This is an oversimplification, yes, but it shows you how a lot of your problems are linked together and how everything can be traced back to your mindset. There is no quick fix for a better life; it requires time, hard work, and dedication. Anything worth achieving isn’t going to be easy. If it were, everybody would know what to do and I’d be out of a job.
How to grow your mindset
Chances are, you are currently stuck in a fixed mindset. Most people are. I was for most of my life.
Admitting this to yourself can be embarrassing and painful, so you try to hide it, deny it, or push back against anybody who claims otherwise. Ironically, this only proves you have a fixed mindset; ignoring useful feedback, feeling threatened, and insecure… ring a bell? Deep down, you know it’s true. You may see this as being on the “losing team” but, once again, that’s the fixed mindset’s perception.
If you want to improve and become better, the first step is always to admit that you have a problem. You have a fixed mindset. So what? Most people do.
Take a moment to admit this to yourself. Realize that there are parts of you that suck. Everybody has parts of them that suck, you are just being strong enough to admit it in order to become better. That makes you better than most people automatically. Real change lies in changing your way of thinking, behavior, and outlook in the moments when it’s the hardest. Having mental strength doesn’t mean feeling happy all the time. It means staying strong and not breaking down when you don’t feel happy.
The only way to progress is to stop avoiding your problems. Don’t try to figure out how to avoid fear, get rid of anxiety, and delete bad memories. It’s impossible. Instead, focus on facing and overcoming your fears, dealing with the roots of your anxiety, and making peace with your insecurities.
In the long run, chasing happiness will only make you unhappy. Just reading about things that “feel good” isn’t enough.
Eventually, you will need to step out into the world and interact with real people. You will need to face real problems and learn how to thrive in spite of everything turning to shit around you. Ambiguous notions about how “things are going to get better” and how “it’s okay to feel however you feel” won’t help you much when the shit hits the fan.
The only way to change is to first accept that you can change. Then, and only then, will you actually be able to do it.
What about you? If you want to adopt a growth mindset, check out the Mind of Steel Handbook, a collection of rules and methods for becoming mentally strong.