The Growth Mindset research is one of the most impacting developments of cognitive psychology. Spearheaded by the decades of research of the psychologist Carol Dweck, it reveals how our beliefs about intelligence and skill shape our performance.
This research brilliantly sidesteps the long debate of “nature vs nurture”, or how much are our intelligence, talent or skill brought up by our intrinsic genes or by our extrinsic environment and actions. The focus is on the belief itself that the individual holds.
Dweck has shown that individuals with a Growth Mindset, that believe that intelligence can be developed and skill is acquired through effortful practice, end up being more successful. This happens because such individuals tend to embrace challenges, push out of their zone of comfort and accept negative feedback.
On the other hand, individuals with a Fixed Mindset, that believe that intelligence is bestowed upon birth and not developed thereafter, end up being less successful. They tend to deal worse with setbacks, seeing failures as permanent testaments of their limitations. Because of this, they tend to avoid new situations and challenges above their level of skill. As a self-fulfilling prophecy, they end up not further developing their skills.
Dweck has also shown that we are strongly biased towards a Fixed Mindset, but with conscious effort it is possible to rewire ourselves to be more oriented towards a Growth Mindset. The psychologist has urged parents and teachers to instill in kids a Growth Mindset by praising the effort they put in instead of seemingly natural intelligence or talent.
The book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” is a great read and goes into details of how the Growth Mindset was studied and how one can become more growth-oriented.