Your limiting factor is rarely your lack of ability, or lack of knowledge, or lack will power, it’s your mindset. Your mindset will control everything that you achieve or do not achieve throughout your life. It doesn’t always stay the same and you can change it if you’re willing to try, but one of the two mindsets we’ll talk about will lead you further and the other will potentially send you in a direction that you will have to dig out of.
In her book, Mindset, which was given to me by one of my clients (Thanks Shelli!! Or maybe she was trying to tell me something….), Carol Dweck uncovers through years of research how two basic mindsets can affect all aspects of your life: work, school, sports, family, friends. Here’s a look at the two mindsets with descriptions and examples:
The fixed mindset does not leave you with many options when it comes to developing as a person, player, friend or sibling, because those with a fixed mindset believe that things are mostly carved in stone. Ability, talent and intelligence are what they are, they cannot not be developed much further, if at all. Having this mindset leads you to constantly trying to prove your self worth. If you are only so fast, you have to prove to others that your fastest is faster than their fastest.
Take John McEnroe for example. One of the most well known tennis players of all time….but also one of the most underachieving. John had one it took, the “talent”, the “abilities”, the “knowledge”, to be a great tennis player, and he was. But he never lived up to his potential, he won matches sure, but could never consistently win the big ones. But why? John was always out to prove that he was better, but never wanted to work for it. When he lost, he always had an excuse: it was too cold, it was too hot, I was too tired, I was jealous, I had sweat in my eyes. He always deflected his failure to something other than his ability. People with the fixed mindset will always have an excuse.
The growth mindset leaves the possibilities for your starting ability open and (relatively) endless. With the growth mindset, talents, abilities and knowledge are things that are earned, things that can be developed over time. Being bad at math now doesn’t mean being bad at math tomorrow. The events in your life are judged on will and effort you put into them, not solely on the outcome.
In the 1960s, the fastest women on earth was Wilma Rudolph. Wilma won three gold medals in track and field in the 1960 Rome Olympics. Of course you would want to believe that she was born with natural abilities and conquered her foes throughout her athletic career. Ironically enough, when Wilma was 4 years old she was stricken with double pneumonia, scarlet fever and polio……yes, polio. Polio effects the central nervous system, leading to paralysis. Wilma came out of this with a paralyzed left leg and was told she would never use it again. After 8 years of constant struggle, the brace on her leg was gone and she began to walk normally. Soon after that she entered her first track meet, and ended dead last in her events. But knowing what she had gone through already, defying the odds given to her by medical professionals, she knew with great effort and willpower that she would eventually compete with the other girls. And, obviously, eventually she did.
Your mindset can take you as far as you want it to or cut you short. Don’t allow yourself to underachieve because your mind tells you that you’re as good as you’re going to get. I was here once, I realize now how much better I could have been in high school, academically, athletically and socially. My dad probably told me every day, but I didn’t want to listen. Luckily he continued to tell me (gentle pressure, relentlessly applied) and I finally wised up (mostly…..Rome wasn’t built in a day….hmmm, two references to Rome in one blog post, that’ll never happen again). Remember, you are your own worst enemy if you allow yourself to be. I wrote an article last year called The Lizard Brain, so as you can tell, I believe mindset is important. For any questions feel free to ask at firstname.lastname@example.org.