Did you know that you can boost your happiness if you foster a growth mindset? The key to happiness really is all in your mind. The way you approach life determines your happiness to a much larger extent than the circumstances that happen to you. Developing a growth mindset can be the “gateway drug” to a happy future.
If a growth mindset is so powerful, there’s one obvious question to ask: what is it? This article will provide the short answer. Over the last several decades, psychologists have deciphered one of the keys to taking charge of your life. It’s not really the old glass half full/glass half empty approach. It’s what you do about it that counts. People who feel in control of their lives are much happier than people who don’t. And this distinction is the central point in what distinguishes a fixed mindset vs. a growth mindset.
A fixed mindset works on the assumption that we have “fixed” characteristics, and we live within the boundaries of those types. The important things about our personalities (according to a fixed mindset) are the inborn traits that we have. For example, we classify ourselves as-smart/dumb, pretty/ugly, talented/not artistic. Those things set our skills, and there is not much we can do about it.
A growth mindset approaches life differently. A growth mindset does acknowledge that we have certain natural aptitudes, like intelligence, talent, or looks. However, those things aren’t our defining traits. What’s important, from a growth mindset, is what we do with what we have. A growth mindset focuses on making efforts, learning strategies, and approaching new challenges by taking things one step at a time. No matter what our natural skills are, we learn and improve our capacity and ability by doing things.
A fixed mindset is often fostered in us by early influences from parents, peers, teachers, and others. A fixed mindset can be negative, even if the intention is to praise. For example, if your parents often said “you’re so smart” when you brought home a good report card, their intentions were certainly good. But it can have a kind of backlash effect. Why? You don’t have any control over your intelligence level. It’s something that you were born with. So, if you get attention for an inborn trait, it can actually leave you feeling helpless. You haven’t been praised for your work and your learning. You’re praised for your mental capacity. If you then face some kind of challenge to your smarts, what will you do? You can be left feeling only that you have to hide that fact that you’re not so smart after all.
A growth mindset is different. Consider this alternative to “you’re so smart”. Instead, what if you heard, “Wow! You must have worked really hard in class and done all of your homework. Great job!” What is the result of this? You have been praised for things within your control. You know that the important thing when it comes to academicsl is to work on your homework every day, and your accomplishments will follow. That’s something that you do, not someone that you are. You can control that.
No matter how you were raised, you can foster a growth mindset in yourself. You do this by focusing on specific goals and tasks, not on your own capability. Break down projects into steps, and complete the steps one at a time. Then be proud of yourself, because you did whatever it took to accomplish your goal. If you tend to decide that you’re no good at something when you feel confused or uncertain, that is the result of a fixed mindset.
Instead, realize that skill is the result of practice, regardless of your intelligence or talent. The important thing is that you take the steps to approach any new challenge–whether a work project, a new goal such as getting into shape, or a self-improvement task like learning to cook. Each step is the result of your own effort. That is in your control, and it’s what’s important–not what “type” of person you were born to be. A growth mindset essentially is an attitude that you can do whatever you want to do, if you just work at it.