Chances are the when you’ve underperformed or even failed other people have come up to you and have said something along the lines of the following: It’s going to be ok because one moment cannot and will not define you. You need to keep moving on and focusing on the future. There are equal chances that you’ve said the same thing to someone else who has also suffered the same situation.
This interesting act is why I want to discuss growth vs. fixed mindset and why it’s easy to advise someone else to have a growth mindset than it is to implement it yourself. But first, we need to understand what each of them is, and even more importantly what they’re not.
Growth Mindset is the ability to believe that through dedication, hard work, and resilience you can fine tune basic abilities into talents. It’s also looking into the face of failure and not being fixated on it or catastrophizing it but the ability to look at it like an opportunity.
Where people get confused is believing that the growth mindset is irrational optimism without self-reflection. When you fail or underperform you must reflect on what went wrong and how to improve it otherwise you don’t grow and learn. However, you need to be able to draw the line between self-reflecting and believing that that one failure means that you have failed life. Growth mindset is the ability – the control to understand your mistakes and move on. Treat your failures as redirection, a chance to turn things around, or even that life is nudging you towards your destiny. Remember that success means nothing without failure.
Fixed Mindset, on the other hand, is quite the opposite but it’s also an easy trap to fall into. Fixed mindset is believing that your abilities such as talent or intelligence are a fixed phenomenon. You believe that you were born with a certain amount of intelligence so why bother trying to do better when you can’t. Fixed mindset is looking at failure and believing that you have failed life. It’s treating failure like a sign from the universe that you are not meant to be successful and that you might as well stop trying. This kind of mindset also steadily feeds you the poison that immediate success, gratification, and reward is more important than learning.
So Now What?
Understanding the two mindsets seems easy enough, how hard can it be to implement it? Very hard BUT not impossible.
In today’s culture, we are bred to believe that work without immediate reward isn’t worth it. We are in a world that believes instant gratification is the key. We are also taught something else, a misconception that corrupts the mind.
We are taught to believe that to be successful we cannot fail and if you do you are now subject to public humiliation for all of eternity. Even though we have heard countless times from successful people that their lives were not in fact a straight line to success but rather a path that often took them on circles and led them back to the starting point without mercy we still cannot get this glorified thought that success is a straight line out of our heads.
Anyone who knows me personally has heard me say this phrase before.
“There’s a difference between pessimisim and practicality. I’m being practical.”
After reading about the two mindsets you should be able to categorize that statement to be one that comes from the mouth of someone with a fixed mindset. I admit I am guilty into falling into such a practice and that by no means have I perfected it but I am willing to learn. That right there is the key, willing to learn and improve. Although the statement above is reasonable – if applied properly, I have always chosen to use it as an excuse for my negative behavior in the face of challenge or failure. So how can you and I change this attitude?
Back to the Original Question
Why is it easier to tell someone to have a growth mindset than it is to implement is ourselves?
The simple answer would be because we’re human but that answer is more of an excuse than it is an answer.
Unfortunately for us humans, we’re wrong about a lot of things. We may of landed on the moon and have found ways to communicate across the ocean in mere seconds but we have failed (for the most part) to see that changing the world doesn’t start with hundreds to even thousands of people falling behind movements and demanding change (although that is indeed required) it starts with us. One person. It’s easier to look out than it is to look in. The same way we have the ability to encourage others past their failures we have the ability to point out a hundred mistakes in them as well without ever being brave enough to acknowledge one mistake within ourselves. Sometimes changing the world starts with changing yourself.
” You cannot win the war against the world if you can’t win the war against your own mind.” — Will Smith
So Where Do I Go From Here?
The first thing is to confront yourself. It is to admit that you have been a person who has a fixed mindset. Afterall you can’t solve a problem you refuse exists. Once you honestly admit that you have been wrong about your actions and behavior you’re halfway there.
The next step is to start small. Just like babies learn to crawl before they can walk you too have to take baby steps. You’re trying to defy a mindset that you’ve followed for a long time. That means slowly building more optimistic views about your life in the face of challenge. Wake up in the morning and tell yourself that today will be a day that I will learn and I will grow. It’s also remembering that anytime in the day you can start over – any moment. There is no rule that a new day starts at 8 AM in the morning and if you made mistakes one day that you have to wait until the next day to change. Any time during the day you feel like things aren’t going your way all you have to do is take a break and restart.
With that being said, you also need to have compassion towards yourself. You cannot change in a day. Rome wasn’t built in a day so don’t push yourself to be perfect in one day. The only thing you will achieve by doing that is burning out all your motivation and you’ll be back where you started. Understand that you’re taking small steps to reach a large goal and that the fact that you’re even trying is a step in the right direction.
When a plant doesn’t grow you don’t blame the plant, so don’t blame yourself. Give yourself time to internalize what having a growth mindset means and how you can implement it into your day.
Try to find opportunities when it’s easier to find problems. With sustained practice, you will see success. Habit making is like a diet it won’t work unless you stick to it. So believe that by choosing to change yourself and train your brain you’re on the path to greater glory.