Want to Be Successful? Cultivate the Growth Mindset

by | Sep 17, 2015

Today, I am sharing another excerpt from my recently released eBook Study Smarter. In the book, I have compiled all of the methods, tips, tricks, and strategies that helped me maintain high grades in college, beat procrastination, organize my time efficiently, and work productively. All of the strategies in this book can be adapted to suit any learning style as long you have a mindset of success.

This mindset is rooted in a single concept: we have the capability to improve ourselves for the better if we are willing to put in the hard work. With perseverance and determination, we can make ourselves smarter and develop skills we never knew we had. Carol Dweck (a researcher at Stanford University) coined the term “growth mindset” to describe this way of thinking. It is essential to long-term success.

Contrast the growth mindset to the fixed mindset. The latter believes that people can’t change, that we have fixed traits. Either you’re smart or you’re not. Either you’re talented or you’re not. Life is a constant competition to prove how much intelligence one was dealt at birth, to appear talented at all costs.

Those with the fixed mindset try to coast by on their natural talent since working too hard would call into question their ability. Once a class seems too difficult, they believe that there really isn’t anything they can do about it. Someone with the fixed mindset might say, “I’m just not a math person” when struggling through a math class. He or she will eventually run away from the challenge out of a fear of failure.

The growth mindset, on the other hand, embraces difficult situations. Those with the growth mindset believe that our brains are like a muscle, and if we challenge and exercise them, they will grow. It is possible to improve our abilities and expand our minds. It is possible to seek out new ways to learn. It is possible to overcome obstacles if we want our goals badly enough.

Where others would believe they had failed, those with the growth mindset would instead see an opportunity to learn what doesn’t work and try again. The only time we fail according to the growth mindset is when we quit. As Thomas Edison once famously observed, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Similarly, he also once stated, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that everyone can become a Mozart or a Leonardo da Vinci or even a Thomas Edison. But it does mean that we never know what we are capable of unless we roll up our sleeves and are willing to put in as many hours as are necessary in order to achieve our goals.

Even if you embrace the growth mindset in most situations, it is easy to fall into the fixed mindset trap in the face of fear and laziness. The steady voice rises in our head, “Don’t ask that question – everyone in the class will think you’re stupid. Why are you still trying to solve this problem? You obviously aren’t smart enough. Why are you working so hard? Wouldn’t it be so much easier just to stay in your comfort zone?”

Nurturing the growth mindset is critically important in order to drown out that voice and to sustain motivation for the projects we are working on even on those days when we become discouraged and overwhelmed.

Here are ten essential steps to follow to develop a mindset of success:

  1. Think positively.
  2. See obstacles as learning opportunities.
  3. Refuse to quit.
  4. Try a different strategy if you’re having trouble grasping a concept or solving a problem.
  5. Don’t compare yourself with others except to learn from their mistakes and be inspired by their successes.
  6. See criticism as constructive.
  7. Set realistic goals for yourself.
  8. Emphasize hard work and effort over talent.
  9. Never stop learning.
  10. Work passionately.

Those who embrace the growth mindset understand that becoming a successful student is not just about adopting techniques and strategies that will help push your GPA a little higher. It’s about learning how to learn so you can quickly teach yourself any skill in the real world. It’s about finding the methods that will allow you to use your time more efficiently so you can always deliver your best possible work.

If you master the strategies necessary to study effectively, refuse to accept the belief that intelligence is fixed, and commit to working wholeheartedly on your projects, you will be well equipped to succeed in whatever career or endeavor you decide to pursue and to take advantage of any opportunities that arise that give you the chance to change the world.

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“Thanks to Nicole’s instruction, two of my reluctant writers have come to enjoy writing,
feeling more confident and eager to work on their assignments.” — Silveria Shultz