Answer: Adopt the growth mindset.
What we believe determines how we behave.
From Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:
My work is part of a tradition in psychology that shows the power of people’s beliefs. These may be beliefs we’re aware of or unaware of, but they strongly affect what we want and whether we succeed in getting it. This tradition also shows how changing people’s beliefs–even the simplest beliefs–can have profound effects.
In this book, you’ll learn how a simple belief about yourself–a belief we discovered in our research–guides a large part of your life. In fact, it permeates every part of your life. Much of what you think of as your personality actually grows out of this “mindset”. Much of what may be preventing you from fulfilling your potential grows out of it.
Who is Carol Dweck and what has she discovered?
If You’re Open to Growth, You Tend to Grow
WHY do some people reach their creative potential in business while other equally talented peers don’t?
After three decades of painstaking research, the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck believes that the answer to the puzzle lies in how people think about intelligence and talent. Those who believe they were born with all the smarts and gifts they’re ever going to have approach life with what she calls a “fixed mind-set.” Those who believe that their own abilities can expand over time, however, live with a “growth mind-set.”
Click here to read the whole 2008 New York times article.
What does the growth mindset look like in action?
From the opening paragraph in Dweck’s book:
“When I was a young researcher, just starting out, something happened that changed my life. I was obsessed with understanding how people cope with failures, and I decided to study it by watching how students grapple with hard problems. So I brought children one at a time to a room in their school, made them comfortable, and then gave them a series of puzzles to solve. The first ones were fairly easy, but the next ones were hard. As the students grunted, perspired, and toiled, I watched their strategies and probed what they were thinking and feeling. I expected differences among children in how they coped with the difficulty, but I saw something I never expected.
Confronted with the hard puzzles, one ten-year-old boy pulled up his chair, rubbed his hands together, smacked his lips, and cried out, “I love a challenge!” Another, sweating away on these puzzles, looked up with a pleased expression and said with authority, “You know, I was hoping this would be informative!”
What’s wrong with them? I wondered. I always thought you coped with failure or you didn’t cope with failure. I never thought anyone loved failure. Were these alien children or were they on to something?
Everyone has a role model, someone who pointed the way at a critical moment in their lives. These children were my role models. They obviously knew something I didn’t and I was determined to figure it out–to understand the kind of mindset that could turn a failure into a gift.
What did they know? They knew that human qualities, such as intellectual skills, could be cultivated through effort. And that’s what they were doing–getting smarter. Not only weren’t they discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing. They thought they were learning.
I, on the other hand, thought human qualities were carved in stone. You were smart or you weren’t, and failure meant you weren’t. It was that simple. If you could arrange successes and avoid failures (at all costs), you could stay smart. Struggles, mistakes, perseverance were just not part of this picture. (p 3-4)
That’s how Dweck opened her book. This is how she closed it:
Change can be tough, but I’ve never heard anyone say it wasn’t worth it. Maybe they’re just rationalizing, the way people who’ve gone through a painful initiation say it was worth it. But people who’ve changed can tell you how their lives have been enhanced. They can tell you about things they have now that they wouldn’t have had, and ways they feel now that they wouldn’t have felt.
Did changing to a growth mindset solve all my problems? No. But I know that I have a different life because of it–a richer one. And that I’m a more alive, courageous, and open person because of it.
It’s for you to decide whether change is right for you now. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But either way, keep the growth mindset in your thoughts. Then, when you bump up against obstacles, you can turn to it. It will always be there for you, showing you a path into the future. (p 246)