How I Went From Being A Mediocre To An Achiever By Changing My Mindset
“Becoming is better than being”. The fixed-mindset robs people from the luxury of becoming. They have to already be.
Up until 4 years ago, in every success story I read, I would look for some attribute, quality, or condition just to tell myself:
You see, this dude had this bla bla bla that I don’t. That’s why he succeeded and that’s why I can’t.
Many of you may share this kind of dooming belief.
The belief that from Michelangelo and Mozart to Michael Jordan, it is their innate talent that made them who they are.
This way of thinking — that we are born with a pre-determined IQ and talent — is called fixed-mindset.
The bad news is that people with fixed-mindset live a mediocre life and barely achieve anything extraordinary (as I was once a mediocre at best).
The good news, however, is that you can readily change your fixed-mindset and adopt a growth-mindset which is the default mode of thinking for world-class achievers.
Having a growth mindset is the best superpower I could ever wish for. But why?
The Two Mindsets and How They Determine Your Future
In presence of challenge, some of us get discouraged and stop.
But some of us, even in face of failure, get energized and persist through the challenge till victory is achieved.
Carol Dweck, who conducted 20-years of research to figure out how the mindset works recount:
Confronted with harder puzzles, one ten-year-old pulls up his chair, rubs his hands together, smacks his lips, and cries out, “I love a challenge!”.
As Dweck puts it:
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?
These children turned out to be thinking with a growth-mindset.
A person with a growth mindset believes that human qualities, such as intellectual skills, can be cultivated through effort. — Carol Dweck
Having this belief, not only they do not get discouraged by failure, they don’t even think they are failing.
Rather, they think that they are learning, and consequently, they get smarter!
They do not say to themselves I am a failure, rather, they say I failed.
People with a fixed-mindset, on the other hand, think that human qualities are carved in stone.
You are smart or you are not, and failure means you are not.
The sad story for people with fixed-mindset is that they try to avoid failure at all costs, so they can stay (feel) smart.
Struggles, mistakes, perseverance are just not part of their philosophy.
I vividly recall myself that in the face of any competition (especially the scientific ones) I would not try AT ALL.
Because I firmly believed that whoever partakes in those competitions must have been endowed with some special mental abilities.
The Origin of The Mindsets
So why do some of us start off with a fixed-mindset and some other lucky ones start off with the advantage of growth-mindset?
The answer is in our childhood upbringing and it is surprisingly simple.
Imagine you are given a puzzle and you solve it.
Now your parent observes your accomplishment with some pride.
This is where the seeds to glory or mediocrity get implanted.
If your parent praised you in the lines of:
Look, what a smart boy/girl …
You are so intelligent, excellent …
Sorry to tell, but you are doomed if you have heard similar praises during your childhood.
So far, you have received several of such sweet (but poisonous) complements hinting on your high IQ or intelligence.
Now, you are given a harder puzzle, you strive to solve it, but, you notice it is taking much more time.
This is where the self-limiting seeds start to grow. In your subconscious you will start a self-dialog along these lines:
hmm, wasn’t I a smart boy/girl? why am I not able to solve this puzzle then??? Hmm, maybe this is just how smart I am. My intelligence is limited to those tasks only …
From then on, you will be very conservative of the activities you will get yourself into for the sake of preserving your self-esteem. (Sounds familiar?)
Now, let’s see how children are endowed with the growth mindset.
Imagine, again, the very same scenario, you solve a problem and now it is time for some praises …
Your parent/teacher while marveling at your accomplishments, says:
Hmm, good job, this might have been an easy puzzle, let’s do something more challenging…
Hmm, good job, you seem to have worked so hard, let’s move on to a harder puzzle.
Take note that in the second scenario, there is no emphasis on an innate trait, rather, the praise is on something which is you have control over, that is, your efforts and how hard you work.
Now let’s examine your self-dialog as you face the new harder challenge.
When you try to solve a harder puzzle and it takes time more than the usual, if you could play your subconscious mind’s voice a little louder, you would hear:
Hmm, I have not yet solved it, I have not tried enough, I must work harder on it, it is exciting.
You see the difference?
An amazing example of growth-mindset is babies.
Lucky to be immune to such destructive praises, babies trying to walk, are not worried about making mistakes or humiliating themselves.
They walk, they fall, they get, fall again, they try indefinitely until they get it right.
This is the very essence of growth-mindset. Knowing that with practice, and perseverance, you will get better and better (with caution, read smarter).
How do I Know if I Have Fixed-mindset or Growth-mindset
The cornerstone of change is to first acknowledge that a shortcoming exist. So, to uncover if you have the fixed or growth-mindset, read the sentences below:
- Our intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t change very much.
- You can learn new things, but you can’t really change how intelligent you are.
- No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it quite a bit.
- You can always substantially change how intelligent you are.
If you agree more with the sentences 1, and 2, you are mostly behaving and operating with a fixed mindset, and if you identify yourself with sentences 3, and 4, you operating with a growth mindset.
How To Change Your Mindset to a Growth Mindset?
#1 Know Thyself
Congrats, you have already taken the first step by shedding the light on these two modes of thinking.
Regardless of these further steps, the sheer knowledge of the fact about yourself takes you a long way.
Before I studied about mindset, I was being hit, but I didn’t know where from.
Now you know.
#2 Don’t Just Watch Success Stories, Examine Them Deeply
When you study the lives of great achievers, you will notice a common theme in their life story and that it, “extremely hard work”, and not talent or IQ.
While people marveled at the Pietà masterpiece, this is how the wizard, Michelangelo responded:
If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.
Reading about these figures also debunks many self-limiting beliefs induced on us by movies such as Good Will Hunting in which a janitor (Matt Damon) solves a math open problem by glancing at it and just figuring out the solution.
You will realize that for someone like Einstein, it took 10 years of daily, deliberate, and intense effort to reach the theory of relativity.
By far, this was the biggest help for me to change my mindset.
I realized everyone that has marvled me (from artists or chess players to scientists) have worked their asses of to reach that skill or achievement.
Another way to cultivate growth-mindset is to be aware.
In case of any failure or setbacks, do not see them as signs of stupidity or shortcomings of mental capacity.
Rather, choose to see them as a lack of experience and skill.
So, beware, when a self-limiting dialog goes rampant in your mind stating that you are not made for this task, you are not good enough to do this.
In such moments I tell myself:
All you ever need is just a little more push …
The biggest change I made to my life was changing my mindest.
If I decide to become a president one day, the idea won’t scare me. Because I know there is a way. I just have to find it and persevere through the harships.
I managed this massive change since I was lucky enough to stumble on the book mindset: the new pysychology of success.
I hoped to spread this luck to as many people as possible by writing this.
In moments of despair, remind yourself that all you need is just a little more push.