Among all the possible solutions to life’s most challenging problems, we may hesitate to consider that cultivating our mindsets for growth could be the most helpful choice. Defined by Mirriam-Webster as “a particular way of thinking: a person’s attitude or set of opinions about something,” mindset is often the last area of change since many people grossly underestimate their own ability to evoke change in their lives. For some people, it makes more sense to blame others, circumstances, or “the system” in general than to view ourselves as catalysts for change.
In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol S. Dweck, Ph. D., described a research study in which researchers informed one group of new hires in computer training that their success in training depended on their own aptitude, and they told the second group that the necessary skills could be learned with practice. Dweck wrote, “Although the two groups started off with exactly equal confidence in their computer skills, by the end of the course they looked quite different. Those in the growth mindset gained considerable confidence in their computer skills as they learned, despite the many mistakes they inevitably made. But, because of those mistakes, those with the fixed mindset actually lost confidence in their computer skills as they learned” (p.51).
Dweck argued that when people believe they cannot change or that their abilities are “fixed”, they are “always in danger of being measured by a failure. It can define them in a permanent way” (p.39). However, she suggested that for believers of self-growth potential, “failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them. And if abilities can be expanded – if change and growth are possible, then there are still many paths to success” (p.39).
Many people fall into the trap of severely limiting themselves when they define themselves based on their past experiences, decisions, or circumstances. What would it be like for us to paint self-worth, grace, and hope onto the canvas of our identity? Dweck admitted that altering our perception cannot serve to fix all of our issues (p.246); however, a simple change of lens has the potential to improve the way we experience life. If we can empower ourselves through new and healthy mindsets, perhaps we can ignite the spark we need to start moving out of our stuck places.
Dweck, C. S. 2008. Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Ballantine Books.