“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” — Henry Ford
Think about the last time you started working toward a new goal.
Did you approach your goal believing that your talents and abilities were static — who you are is who you are, and there’s nothing you can do to change?
Or did you approach it knowing it would be difficult, but ready to learn and grow from the hard work and inevitable obstacles that arise on any challenging journey?
If your approach was the former, you likely have what psychologist Carol Dweck calls a fixed mindset regarding your goals. A fixed mindset means you generally believe that your abilities are set in stone, and there’s no point in trying to change them.
In a fixed mindset, you strive to look talented at all costs. You don’t want to be seen working too hard. You conceal your weaknesses and hide behind a wall of perfection. Effort is seen as a bad thing.
The alternative, a growth mindset, means you generally believe your abilities are qualities you can cultivate through your efforts. This approach to goal-striving prioritizes learning. Effort is key, and weaknesses are simply an opportunity for growth.
While some of us may start with more talent than others, “No matter what your ability is, says Dweck, “Effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”
In other words, a growth mindset is necessary to believe you can change.
Here are some additional reasons why your mindset matters so much.
Your mindset determines whether or not you give your best effort.
When taking on a challenge, whether it’s fitness, lifestyle, or career-related, it’s imperative that you start your journey believing your efforts will make a difference. Why? Because if you don’t start out believing that you can improve, you’re unlikely to put in the work needed to get any better.
Half-hearted effort = half-hearted results.
Progress requires a willingness to try your best in the first place. And the courage to stick with the process long enough to see the changes occur. The more difficult the challenge, the more important this is.
Your mindset determines how you approach challenges.
When taking on a new challenge, are you excited at the prospect of difficulties? Or are you daunted by the guaranteed struggle ahead?
In a growth mindset, a shift in the belief of the meaning of difficulty can help you see struggles as a normal part of meeting ambitious growth and learning goals.
For example, if you choose an athletic goal because you believe in yourself and want to see how far you can go, you expect to struggle. Rather than be surprised and discouraged by difficulties, you think: “of course this is hard. I chose a difficult challenge. If I continue to do the work, I’m going to get better and learn a lot in the process.”
Having a growth mindset also means you’re more likely to take on bigger challenges and risks. Your willingness to push yourself past your comfort level will help you grow.
Failure isn’t final.
When you approach your goals with a growth mindset, the fear of failure no longer holds such power over you. Rather than being debilitating, failure is a means by which you can learn valuable lessons and ultimately become a stronger, more resilient person.
Failure isn’t final — just an opportunity to learn and grow.
“What is defeat? Nothing but education. Nothing but the first step to something better.” — Bruce Lee