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our mindset greatly influences our vision of things and our reactions. Depending on whether we are rather serene and calm or, on the contrary, upset or worried, we will react very differently to an event. But events also change our mood.

The importance of mindset

We often emphasize the importance of the state of mind when approaching a project, an event or simply something important and demanding. As we’ll see, it’s not just overused advice or a “trick” that wouldn’t really have an impact: research shows precisely that the state of mind can change everything !

The fixed mindset and the growth mindset

Our state of mind, even if it does not determine everything, can have a very important impact on the objectives that we set for ourselves and on success in general.

However, this mentality is fundamentally biased. Indeed, the development of any skill is based on motivation, the use of appropriate methods and sustained effort. Only exceptional or extreme skills can be limited by physical or physiological aspects. This is the case, for example, for very high-level sports careers where, with equal training, genetic differences can create insurmountable performance gaps.

In order to better understand the implications of this work, let’s see precisely what each of these two distinct states of mind correspond to.

What is the Fixed Mindset?

In this configuration, everyone is believed to be born with unchangeable strengths and weaknesses , no matter how hard they try to improve. Instead, we seek to avoid situations that reveal our weak points, which are harmful to self-esteem. Together, we seek to highlight only the areas that we master. And even in the areas that we master, it can lead to less effort to improve, since we then think that our skills and our efficiency are already at their maximum and that we cannot do anything to optimize them. This is due to the fact that we perceive ourselves as “naturally” good at it. When we have a fixed state of mind, we think that the talents of each other are innate gifts.

The fixed mindset is both limited and limiting : abilities cannot be improved with effort. Failure is seen here as a confirmation of our beliefs rather than an opportunity to learn. Paradoxically, we are not born with this state of mind and children learn quickly, paying little attention to their mistakes. But, in time, these can adopt this fixed state of mind, which is everywhere around them. It takes the fun and ease out of learning and makes the obstacles bigger than they really are. This is why as a parent and educator it is essential not to reinforce this state of mind .

What is the growth mindset?

On the contrary, favoring an incremental vision or the development of intelligence and skills has positive consequences (we speak of a “growth mindset”). The belief that all abilities and talents can be developed, cultivated and worked on, allows one not to be afraid of failure. Here we do not compare ourselves to others, but to our previous performances. People who think their abilities can be developed (through hard work, appropriate strategies, and advice and feedback from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to accomplish more than those with a fixed mindset.

This mindset is based on the belief that intelligence, talent, and ability can be developed over time if one is willing to put in the effort. Here an obstacle is seen as a challenge and a learning opportunity that allows individuals to grow as a person. The error is seen as a chance to learn and improve. Successful people do not necessarily have more talents, resources and opportunities than others, but use them more effectively.

All of this is not to say that there are no natural differences in talent or opportunity between individuals. It is simply a question of underlining the fact that we use what we have rather well or badly according to state of minds and attitudes which condition our behaviors. Admittedly, the environment can be a facilitator or a blocker, regardless of the state of mind adopted. However, with a growth mindset we will feel more empowered to respond to this environment, rather than blaming it for our lack of effort or understanding. Finally, growth mindset should not be confused with being flexible, open-minded, or positive. If we consider these qualities as something innate, we are always in a fixed state of mind!

A binary view?

However, these two visions are never present in a pure way for an individual in any situation. Depending on the domains, the mood and our experiences, we oscillate between these two extremes. The goal being, of course, to tilt the balance towards the spirit of development in order to be in a positive and beneficial dynamic for the achievement of our objectives. We find in roughly equal proportions the predominance of one or the other of these two visions in the population. (Dweck, 2017). However, this predominance (one way or the other) is rarely total and perfect. This means that while the mindset is something that can change with experience and work. Even if you think you are not very effective for a task, nothing prevents you from developing skills in this area. The changes will then come above all from motivation and the application of appropriate methods.

mindset in education

The educational system which distributes pupils by age group and which prescribes identical school tasks for all leads to a classification of stable aptitudes. It also tends to reinforce the fixed mindset at the expense of a growth mindset. The students’ self-assessments then become close to those of the teachers and their classmates, with all that this can entail in terms of integration of failure or success. Praising students for their work is important, but be careful about what you’re emphasizing: effort or results . Students praised only for their intelligence and performance will develop a fixed mindset and are more likely to lie and cheat on exams to project a good image of themselves and continue to get compliments! To foster a growth mindset, the focus is on process and progression , rather than a one-time result. Errors are then considered part of learning, and the student is more encouraged to try things out, even if it doesn’t work. The important thing is to try and analyze your mistakes in order to progress. But beware, the growth mindset is not just about rewarding effort. Results always matter. Indeed, efforts made constantly in vain are never positive in the long term. Clearly, in the mindset of development, we take into account risk taking and effort (the journey), and not just a specific result (the finish line).

change of mind

Changing your mindset isn’t necessarily easy. It can be a bit like trying to change the side you cross your arms on. At first, it seems odd and uncomfortable. However, by sufficiently alternating the two positions, you end up getting used to the one you weren’t used to using. The same goes for the state of mind. To begin to change, we must already become aware of our state of mind for a particular area. Reflection, but also meditation, can facilitate this awareness. We can then begin to identify thoughts related to the fixed mindset when confronted with certain situations, as well as the internal dialogue that ensues, the fact of focusing only on the results, etc. Thanks to the attention that we pay to all these aspects, we can reframe things to progress towards a more constructive state of mind. Carol Dweck , researcher specializing in the subject, explains how to change your state of mind in 4 steps(Dweck, 2017):

  1. Learn to hear the voice of your fixed mindset
  2. Realize that we have a choice
  3. Respond with an internal voice characteristic of a growth mindset
  4. Act on the growth mindset

Conclusion

The state of mind is therefore very important . A fixed mindset misses the best opportunities for progress and maintains poor performance, while a growth mindset allows an individual’s abilities to be constantly increased. So if a task seems complicated to you or that you think you will “never be made for” this type of activity, think twice. With the right method, you can progress and improve!