Redefining Success in Education: The Benefit Mindset

Everybody wants to be successful, and for many young people this means getting good marks at school. But is the pursuit of achievement alone actually holding young people back? In this article we present the Benefit Mindset as a pathway for re-imagining success — unleashing whole person and whole planet potential.


There is a global movement taking place in education. In Australia, students are learning how to strengthen their relationships, cultivate positive emotions and enhance personal resilience. In Germany, schools run subjects specifically on happiness and social skills. In Bhutan, young people learn mindfulness, and how they can best contribute to their country’s Gross National Happiness (GNH).

Under the umbrella of Positive Education, teachers are fundamentally rethinking why we go to school. At its core is a simple question; what does it really mean to be successful in life? Rather than promoting ‘accomplishment for accomplishments sake’, teachers focus on how they can educate whole people and promote long-term wellbeing. They explore the things that make life worth living, and how students can cultivate valuable skills like hope, optimism and gratitude.

Positive Education is indicative of a new mindset emerging around the world in numerous fields including business and sustainability. Rather than being driven by individual gain, this community is finding there is real value, in being of value — to themselves, to others, to nature and to the future. It is a purpose-driven mindset that is redefining success; from being the best in the world, to being the best for the world. It is the Benefit Mindset.

A New Psychology of Success

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value” — Albert Einstein

Having recently completed the Master of Applied Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne, I studied this globally emerging mindset. The Benefit Mindset describes society’s everyday leaders who look beyond personal achievement, to promote wellbeing on both an individual and a collective level.

The Benefit Mindset builds on Carol Dweck’s pioneering research, on how beliefs about the nature of intelligence can profoundly shape our ability to learn and grow. This framework takes her Fixed and Growth Mindset to the next level — towards a richer definition of success.

What sets everyday leaders apart from their everyday achieving counterparts is how they aspire to discover their strengths, in order to meaningfully contribute to causes that are greater than the self. They question ‘why’ they do what they do, and believe in making a meaningful difference.

This new psychology of success is not only emerging in education. It’s showing up as part of new sustainability concepts such as Net Positive, that are redefining success in sustainability, from minimising negative footprints to maximising positive handprints. It’s also particularly evident in the Benefit Corporation business community, who are using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.

Being a Force for Good

Not discounting the importance of a Growth Mindset, everyday leaders learn how their accomplishments can promote deeply meaningful and valued outcomes.

Nick Berryman, a teacher at Fitzroy Community School, in Melbourne, Australia and graduate of the Master of Applied Positive Psychology is putting these principles into practice.

“One of the daily questions everyone at our school asks themselves is; how have you made the world a better place?”

“This way of thinking is infused into the fabric of our school. You can see it in the way we teach, how we look out for each other, and how the school as a whole looks out for the broader community.”

Lunch time is a community affair at Fitzroy Community School.

Nicks students actively fundraise for the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, as well as an underprivileged school in Kunming, China.

“Everyone in our community is empowered to contribute in their own unique way. It feels great to be teaching in a school that has a culture of contribution.”

Flourishing in an Interconnected World

“The purpose of life is to discover your gifts; and the meaning of life is to give your gifts away.” — David Viscott

Teaching the Benefit Mindset in our schools could be one of the best points of leverage we have for liberating human potential — and simultaneously bringing out the best in business and the planet.

Imagine what would be possible if we had generations of students finishing school with a rich appreciation of how their unique strengths could make the world a better place. Imagine the ripples of change that would be possible with whole generations living their lives with purpose. Imagine a world where individualism and collectivism flourishes side by side.

It’s time to further this conversation and redefine success in our education system.