Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford, has done extensive research into how a person's mindset impacts their ability to reach their full potential. Here are some of my thoughts (for free).

To paint the issue as black and white, there are fixed mindsets and growth mindsets. If you hold a fixed mindset, you believe that abilities, talents, and/or intelligence are innate. If you hold a growth mindset, you believe that abilities, talents, and/or intelligence are cultivated through effort. Putting it in those terms, it makes it seem obvious that a growth mindset is preferable, since it lacks the stench of prejudice and places value in hard work rather than good genes. By the way, you can hold different mindsets for different areas (for example: intelligence is fixed but athleticism is learned).

So why is it that the fixed mindset is so alluring? Consider the following:

It feels good to think that you breezed through school because you're smart, flunked out of it because your teachers were horrible, or scraped by with C's because you didn't care. Similarly, you never learned to play an instrument because you're not musical, didn't learn to dance because you have no rhythm, and bailed out of that relationship because you fell out of love.

This is the allure of the fixed mindset: You never have to accept responsibility for your failures or short comings (I flubbed my solo because the audience distracted me.) while still accepting all the glory for your achievements (I nailed that solo! I am God's gift to music!).

The growth mindset lacks that glamor: You didn't get A's because of your innate intelligence; you got them because of certain advantages and a lot of effort. You didn't fail because the teacher sucks; you failed because you did not apply yourself and never learned the skills you needed to succeed... You don't dance because you never took the time to learn how. You fell out of love because you did not put the time and effort into the relationship and the other person that it deserved and required, or just never learned the skills to love enduringly.

This is why the growth mindset lacks appeal: Your failures are because of your lack of effort or character, while your successes are due primarily to your effort, character and resources. Most of us prefer to feel like we are endowed with God-given talent rather than recognize that our talent is the product of hard work and fortunate circumstances.

All that being said, Dweck's evidence is conclusive: the growth mindset is desirable. It produces better performance, higher quality character, and more enjoyable experiences. The fixed mindset tends to produce anxious, nervous, lying, cheating slackers.

Although world class talent can emerge from either mindset, you want to be the kind of person that the growth mindset produces. Develop one today.

Read "Mindset" by Carol Dweck and "Talent is Overrated" by Geoff Colvin.

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