Many people go through life thinking they’re smart or they’re dumb. That they can do a thing or they can’t. That they get it or they don’t. That they’re strong or they’re not. This is a fixed mindset and they don’t see the opportunity to try and improve. They see that either someone has a talent for something or they can’t do it at all. From their perspective, when someone works hard at something, it’s because they’re not good at it. If someone is studying hard it’s because they’re not smart.
I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t born knowing how to walk and talk and solve math problems. I worked hard to develop the muscles and motor skills to be able to walk. It’s easy now, but it did not start out that way. I struggled to learn vocabulary and how to say “mom” and “dad”. Taking is mostly easy now, but again it did not start out that way. In order to be able to solve math problems (that I find easy now), I had to study and practice a lot. Just like a master at the piano started off struggling to read music and play at the right tempo. But with a fixed mindset, we don’t think, “oh wow that person worked really hard to be able to play that well. I bet I could be that good one day too if I put in the work.” Instead, we think, “oh wow that person is really talented at the piano. I wish I could play like that.”
Having a growth mindset means understanding that you can always improve at something and you can gain any skill or knowledge you want if you put in the effort. Just because you burned your dinner the first time you tried cooking doesn’t mean you can’t cook. It just means you need to figure out a better temperature for cooking that meal. Just because lose at chess the first time you play doesn’t mean you can’t practice and learn and become a chess master. Having a growth mindset means understanding that you can’t do something yet, but with effort, you can do or learn anything.
How can you change your thoughts and words so they reflect a growth mindset and not a fixed one? By adding “yet” when you hear yourself say, “I can’t do that,” or “I don’t know that.” By looking at the famous painter and saying, “s/he must have put in a lot of effort to become that good.” By telling yourself over and over to just try and you will get it. Remember, walking was once hard for you too.
Which mindset are you?