What a World-Renowned Psychologist Taught Me About Success

Read the following statements and choose whether you mostly agree with it or disagree with it:

  1. Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t change very much.
  2. You can learn new things, but you can’t really change how intelligent you are.
  3. No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it quite a bit.
  4. You can always substantially change how intelligent you are.

If you agree with questions 1 and 2, you might have a propensity towards a fixed mindset. On the other hand, if you agree with questions 3 and 4, you might have a growth mindset.

Carol Dweck, widely known as world’s leading psychologist, conducted decades of research on achievement and success. A key insight from her ground-breaking book Mindset was this: The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. In other words, your mindset determines your future potential.

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

Paul Sohn - growth mindset vs fixed mindset

Dweck says there are two mindsets and people find themselves vacillating in this spectrum.

A “fixed mindset” assumes that our intelligence, personality, and creative ability is carved in stone. In other words, ability is static which you have minimal or zero control over. You are either born talented, superior, skillful or subpar, inferior, or deficient. Every situation is evaluated: “Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?” You crave for validation.

Favorite Mantras: “Nothing ventured, nothing lost.” “If at first you don’t succeed, you probably don’t have the ability.” “If Rome wasn’t built in a day, maybe it wasn’t meant to be.”

A “growth mindset” thrives on challenge and assumes that people’s intelligence, character, and ability can be cultivated through effort. You crave for developing yourself.

Favorite Mantras:” Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

  • In a fixed mindset, you want to hide your flaws so you’re not judged or labeled a failure. Everything is about proving yourself.
  • In a growth mindset, your flaws are just a to-do list of things to improve. It’s about the challenge of growing.
  • In a fixed mindset, you stick with what you know to keep up your confidence. You have an aversion for risks.
  • In a growth mindset, you build your confidence by always pushing the envelope, to make sure you’re always learning and growing outside your comfort zone.
  • In a fixed mindset, failures define you.
  • In a growth mindset, failures are temporary setbacks.

mindset-animation

Grow Your Mindset

The good news is that you have a choice. You can choose do grow your mindset. Like changing an ingrained habit, it takes a concerted effort, discipline and intentionality to embrace a growth mindset. Dweck shares the following strategies to help you make this paradigm shift.

  • Think of a time you were enjoying something – playing a sport, learning a new song, solving a crossword puzzle. Then it became hard and you wanted to give up. Maybe you suddenly felt exhausted, dizzy, or bored. Next time, this happens, don’t fool yourself. This is the tyranny of the fixed mindset. Put yourself in a growth mindset. Imagine your brain forming new connections as you meet the challenge and learn. Keep it going.
  • Is there something in your past that you think measured you? A test score? A dishonest action? A lie? Being fired from a job? A painful abuse from your parents? Being rejected Focus on that experience and engage your emotions that go with int. Now put this into a growth mindset. Ask yourself: What did I (or can I) learn from that experience? How can I use it as a basis for growth? Carry on with this new perspective.
  • Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but were afraid you weren’t good at? Perhaps you became self-conscious of how people perceived you. Instead, make a plan to do it and create a system of accountability.
  • Think about your hero. Do you think of this person as someone with extraordinary abilities who achieved with little effort? Now, go find out the truth. Google him/her. Get to learn their full story. Find out the tremendous effort that went into their accomplishment.

TED TALK: Carol Dweck on the Power of Mindset

Question: What are you committed to change to cultivate a growth mindset?


  • Such a great book and TED Talk! This should be required reading for everyone interested in personal growth and development. Thanks for sharing Paul!