The Mental Hack Proven to Boost Your Professional and Personal Success

Each July, I share with you powerful mental hacks and mindset shifts that can power successful career development. We’ve explored how the happiness advantage can drive your career success, how to identify your personal brand, and how to be a better motivator by leveraging your co-workers’ decision-making styles.

This time, let’s talk about a way of thinking that numerous rigorous studies solidly correlate with higher academic, professional, and relationship success. Making this single shift in your perspective is scientifically proven to improve your performance across the board.

It’s called Growth Mindset, and it’s a way of viewing success and intelligence in terms of progress, adaptability, change, and effort.

With a Growth Mindset, we—

  • Believe that ability can be developed over time, through effort.
  • See failures and setbacks as natural parts of the process of getting better.
  • Focus on try and learn more than on achieve.
  • Believe that weaknesses aren’t set in stone and that people can learn to do better and be better.
  • Emphasize the process more than the outcome.
  • Feel comfortable with effort, struggle, and even failure.
  • See weaknesses as opportunities for growth.
  • Embrace challenges.
  • Seek more learning opportunities.
  • Are receptive to feedback that changes our current thinking.

In contrast, Fixed Mindset sees achievement as a function of innate, unchangeable abilities. A Fixed Mindset leads to avoiding challenge (because challenge can lead to failure) and avoiding effort (because if you have natural talent, things should come easy).

With a Fixed Mindset, we—

  • Believe that character, intelligence, and creative ability are set in stone and can’t change much, no matter what we do.
  • Prioritize achievement and outcome as the only real measures of success.
  • Avoid challenges at any cost because challenge opens the potential for failure.
  • Seek constant approval and affirmation.
  • Avoid feedback that challenges the status quo.
  • Blame others for failures or problems.
  • Think that if something is hard, it’s because we’re just not good at it.
  • Fear failure.
  • See setbacks as evidence that we’re not smart or skilled.

The Fixed Mindset is a stingy, discouraging place to be. The most empowering part of the Growth Mindset is that everything can get better! It may be hard; it may take time, work, and effort; there may be failures along the way. But almost everything can be learned and improved—even IQ, which was once thought to be a static, inherent trait.

As a resume writer, I see a marked different between people who see themselves as the victims of layoffs, lost promotions, or changing workplace conditions, versus those who are enthusiastic about improving their prospects and believe that with work and hustle they have a good shot at building a fulfilling career.

This summer, as you take the opportunity to step away from the daily grind—at the beach, at a sunny park, even on an airplane—take a few minutes to think about the areas of your life that you’ve been perhaps viewing from a Fixed Mindset. What things can you improve by being willing to try, fail a few times, and grow?

If you’d like to learn more, here’s a great article summarizing fixed vs growth mindset findings from the always insightful Maria Popova. And here’s a quick quiz to assess your current growth mindset. Find fun resources to teach kids the growth mindset paradigm here.