A lot of times, we struggle with keeping ourselves motivated. It is hard, no doubt, and it doesn’t get any easier when we’re constantly exposed to others and their apparent success. A lack of motivation coupled with seeing everyone else get ahead pushes some of us to believe that we just aren’t cut out for this.
“I’ll never get there,” we think to ourselves.
This is called a “fixed mindset” — the belief that we have a predefined ceiling as to what we can learn and achieve. Dr. Carol Dweck wrote a book in 2006 discussing fixed vs. growth mindsets. In her studies, she found that when students are guided towards a growth mindset, their performance improves, as opposed to students with fixed mindsets whose performance stays unaffected.
These studies are conducted in schools where students are the primary subjects, so how does this apply to regular folk?
Well, we live in constant learning environments where we’re always trying methods and learning new things. There are many situations where we deal with failure, and there are two ways we can deal with them: 1) drop them altogether, or 2) learn from them and try again.
If our first thought after getting less-than-desired results is to quit and move on to something else, then we’re probably leaving a lot on the table. It’s very hard to swallow a loss and deal with it. It requires a completely different way of thinking to be able to do that. So, let’s change our mindset, then!
Here are 5 ideas that can help change our way of thinking:
- Believe in our skills or talents — it all begins with being convinced that we can do it, so let’s drop all the previously held convictions about ourselves;
- Be mindful — take a better look at ourselves and ask others about what qualities they see in us, so that we have a better idea of who/what/how we are;
- Be determined — hard work is one thing, but determination is that other part of the equation that will get us moving;
- Expect (and embrace!) failure — if things don’t turn out as expected, we should be ready and looking forward to learning from our mistakes;
- Be inspired and inspire others — when someone wins, let’s become one with their happiness so that we can help ourselves and others after us.
There were many times when I found myself in a fixed mindset. My break-out trick was to say to myself, “hey, if so-and-so did it, I can definitely do it, too!” Even though this helped me work harder, it didn’t truly move me to a growth mindset because I failed horribly at being inspired or inspiring others. It wasn’t until I tried to be sincerely happy about others’ accomplishments that I managed to evolve.
Next time you’re dealing with a setback, don’t be discouraged. Instead of asking yourself “am I there?”, you should ask “am I there yet?”
- Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset: What’s the Difference? — Harvard Business School Online
- Carol Dweck: A Summary of Growth and Fixed Mindsets — Farnam Street Blog
- Growth Mindset vs. Fixed + Key Takeaways From Dweck’s Book — PositivePsychology.com