Are people born smart or creative, or can they develop these traits over time?
How you answer this question says a lot about you. In fact, it determines how you approach challenges, and helps predict whether you will achieve your full potential or not.
If you think qualities like intelligence and creativity are carved in stone — you’re born with a certain amount and that amount stays the same throughout your lifetime — you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.
According to psychology professor Carol Dweck, the idea that you can’t change or improve (what she calls a “fixed mindset”) is the most powerful — and toxic — belief you can have.
“The fixed mindset creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over,” writes Dweck. A fixed-mindsetter who is considered smart may not admit when he doesn’t know the answer for fear of looking dumb. As a consequence, he misses out on opportunities for learning something new.
Dweck’s research shows that fixed-mindsetters live under the belief that talent is born, not made. When the picture they paint or the cake they bake doesn’t come out perfect on the first attempt, they conclude they just don’t have what it takes to master those skills. They see the need for practice as an evidence of incompetence, so they don’t allow themselves to fail until they succeed.
The fear of tackling challenges combined with a contempt for effort is a recipe for underachievement. Ultimately, a fixed mindset will hold you back from learning and growing.
If you want to do all that you were put on this world to do, you need to start thinking differently. Cultivate a growth mindset, and success — in the form of curiosity and contentment — will follow.