The Growth Mindset – Whatever We Are Now, We Can Learn To Be Different

We can adopt a growth mindset and engage our conscious will to choose the self and the life we want, rather than passively accept the status quo. We tell ourselves that with the right amount of effort and the correct approach, we can be the person we want to be. If we aren’t good at something, enough practice will help us improve and eventually master that activity.

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This is the worldview and corresponding attitude that sees life as in progress, and your essential character as something that is somewhat malleable and up for change. In other words, the growth mindset acknowledges that although we are born with some fixed characteristics, a lot of who we are comes down to what we do—and that can change.

This is the belief that whatever we are now, we can learn to be different.

We can change. We can improve. Whether we succeed in life comes down to the actions we take, the (intentional) effort and hard work. Sure, some people may be born with more talent, privilege or raw luck. But when it comes to our lives, we are conscious agents who can determine the quality of our being because we can work hard, act with consciousness and make choices.

Sound familiar? The growth mindset is more or less the same as what we mean by “intentional thinking.” Rather than passively, unconsciously accepting that we are as we are and that’s that, we take conscious and willful control of the course of our lives.

The attitude translates into real success. This is because when we encounter obstacles, we don’t shrug and give up—we understand that we can overcome them if we work harder. We’re not humiliated and discouraged when we don’t understand something, when we make a mistake or when we come up against something difficult. We don’t take this to mean that we are, at our core, bad people. We simply accept it as par for the course and get on with the hard work!

With a growth mindset, we don’t see adversity as a problem at all—why would we, when it doesn’t say anything about our natures, our identities, or our value as people? We embrace discomfort and confusion because we know they are signs that we are learning… and we want to learn! We accept criticism without being defensive. We have nothing to prove. Our only mission is to get better, and we do this by accepting our faults and misunderstandings as quickly as possible.

To return to the question of comparison with others, when we adopt a growth mindset, we become less threatened by the success of other people around us. We needn’t be threatened, and don’t say bitterly “well, lucky them, they were just born that way.” Instead, we can celebrate other people’s success with them, and be inspired to know that if we work hard, we too can improve. We don’t dwell in the disempowered state of mind tells us that we could never have what others have—instead, we ask how we can.

In this mindset, it’s OK to be a beginner. In fact, it’s a prerequisite on any journey of improvement! It’s acceptable to find things difficult. Struggling with a life goal doesn’t mean we weren’t cut out for it and that we should give up and leave it for people who it comes “naturally” to; it only means we are doing something difficult, and that takes effort.

This is a mindset that runs deep. Ask yourself, where does success really come from? Who are you, as a person, and what are your limitations, your possibilities?

Maybe you’ve quietly resigned yourself to a situation because you unconsciously don’t believe it’s possible or worth it to try for something different. Maybe you’ve been assuming that living your best life was supposed to feel less like hard work, and so you’ve given up on your dreams prematurely.

Maybe you’ve deliberately kept yourself from learning and growing because you’re more concerned with appearing to already have everything together—and isn’t that a shame?

With a growth mindset, failure never defines you. Your experience is always in process, always up to you to classify, to own. A mistake is simply something you do. It’s not a judgment against your character. You can hold on to it in shame, or you can learn your lesson and move on to what’s really important: becoming what you really want to become.

With a growth mindset, you don’t avoid discomfort—in fact, you may seek it out. After all, it’s this slightly uncomfortable place just outside your comfort zone where all the magic happens… so why would you avoid it when it’s literally the place where your dreams come true? It’s the difference between “I can’t do this” and “I can’t do this… yet.” One stunts you and keeps you stuck where you are. The other opens you up to hopeful possibilities, to the energy of problem-solving, to creative next steps.

It’s tricky to spot a fixed mindset in action, but most of us, being raised in the cultures and educational systems we have, suffer from this mindset to some degree. How often do we praise a successful person for being a “genius” versus acknowledging that they’re just like us, only they worked damn hard? How often do we feel like making one mistake proves that we are complete, irremediable idiots?

We return to the big idea running through this entire book: that our thoughts create our experience. Our mindset determines our thoughts, feelings and, ultimately, our actions, which then shape our world, creating feedback loops that confirm and reinforce whatever ideas we have programmed into these powerful machines called our minds.

There’s nothing all that magical about a growth mindset. It’s merely a subtle shift in perspective—looking at exactly the same thing as everyone else, but seeing something a little different. So, just as in our example of the employee above, adversity and failure are always there, only our interpretation changes. One way is to see failure as a condemnation; the other is to embrace it as a gift, a teacher, an inspiring challenge.

Any time you say something like, “I’m just not someone who’s good at budgeting” or decide not to try something new because you’re afraid of looking silly, a fixed mindset stands between you and the full potential of a more empowered, intentional way of being.

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