In general, people expect that individuals who are smart in school and always scoring high grades would excel in life after school. In practice, we all get surprised when some of the smartest people don’t make it in life. Many have wondered why some of the brightest people seem to go nowhere in life. Today, we want to dwell on this subject—to understand why some of the intelligent people do not succeed in life and how come some people who do not have an incredible academic background achieve a lot in life.
Extensive research by psychologist Carol Dweck on attitude and performance shows that attitude is a better predictor of success than one’s Intelligence Quotient (IQ). She discovered that people can be grouped into two categories depending on their core attitudes: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
People with a fixed mindset believe that they are who they are and nothing can change them. They are very inflexible. This becomes a real problem when they are faced with big challenges because they fail to handle such complexities. They are inflexible and they cannot think outside the box. They cannot find creative solutions around the problems. We all know that being smart or intelligent breeds confidence but only when the going is easy. When faced with big challenges, being smart and confident is not enough to tackle difficult situations. You need an extra tool. Flexibility.
People endowed with a growth mindset are able to tackle setbacks much better than those with a fixed mindset. People with a growth mindset believe that they can grow by working hard through challenges. They embrace challenges, problems and setbacks as opportunities for learning. Recently, I have heard a few friends who have lost money while setting up business. Some have given up, others have ploughed on and they said that they did not make loss but that the money they did not recover while setting up the business is ‘fees’ – meaning they have paid fees to learn the business! These are the people endowed with the growth mindset and they are set to succeed in their pursuits.
That is why, Dweck believes that success in life depends on how we deal with failure. Failure can either make us succeed or not. It is the defining moment. Those with a fixed mindset fail to deal with failure. But those with a growth mindset consider failure as information they can use to find ways of resolving the setback and learning how to do it better next time. They have great passion for what they do and so they keep going even when faced with what may look as problems impossible to resolve. Passion makes them find a way around big problems.
On the contrary, those with fixed mindsets cannot see beyond the problem. They get stuck into the problem with their mind fixed at the problem and so they give up! With a flexible mindset, you can even consult others, you can observe what others do and how they resolve their issues. With a growth mindset, you will refer to past problems and recall the solutions that worked and then you will be able to modify and adapt those solutions to fit the current problem at hand.
Those with growth mindset never give up. They will search on end for solutions to resolve the setbacks. Since they consider failure as a learning opportunity, they will study the problem or failure in detail until they fully understand the issue and this gives them the insights needed to resolve the issue. That is why their track records will show a better chance of solving problems that they meet compared to those that have fixed mindsets.
We have seen today that even if you may not be a star in class or may not have graduated with top grades or not gone very far with education, you can achieve a lot in life provided you have the right attitude in life. Do be there next week when we will detail the key things that you need to do to emulate those that have growth mindset so that you too can excel in life.