About mindset

We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.
“Journey to Ixtlan”, Carlos Castaneda.

Nobody taught us how to think correctly. This is one of the reasons I’m deeply disappointed in school and the educational system in general. Just being aware of different mindsets’ peculiarities in early childhood, I could save a lot of suffering for myself and my close ones.

I don’t know how to make it clear enough how much importance I place on understanding and applying the growth mindset principles. I sincerely believe that every person, young and old, must know them. This is the foundation, without which the entire building structure will collapse to hell.

Much of what I will write next is gleaned from Carol Dweck’s book Mindset.

Are you set to improve or defend your current situation?

Carol Dweck distinguishes fixed and growth mindsets. A growth mindset is set for improvement. While a fixed one is set for maintaining the current position.

Mindset means a specific set of beliefs that dictate how you make decisions and actions in certain situations. It’s a program you use to deal with the problems that life offers you. For the vast majority of people, this program is set accidentally, not for the best.

There are matching beliefs for each goal. Growth and mediocrity have their own sets of those that are very different. It doesn’t mean, though, that you either have a growth mindset in all aspects of your life or a fixed one. We are all set for growth in something and mediocrity in something else.

The main differences in the two mindsets revolve around the perception of failure, effort, and success.

Fixed mindset:

  • All my knowledge and skills are fixed. They will remain what they are.
  • If I have to work hard on it, then it’s not meant for me.
  • Successful people are just very talented.
  • If I have problems, then something is wrong with me.
  • It is important how people evaluate me.

Growth mindset:

  • I can acquire any knowledge or skill, if I apply enough effort to it.
  • If I got a bad outcome, it means that I need to adjust my approach or put in more effort.
  • Successful people are successful because they worked hard on themselves.
  • If I have problems, it means I must learn something.
  • It is important to continuously grow.

If it seemed to you that such differences don’t matter, then I hasten to assure you — these mindsets are from different planets!

For the growth mindset, the world is a playground, an arena for experimentation.
For the fixed one, it’s a huge injustice and a game of survival.

Encourage process, not result

I had bad luck in my life to develop a belief from early childhood that I was smart. Of course, not without the efforts of caring adults who would not let me forget about it.

Praise like “You’re so smart!” reinforces this quality in the self‑image of a person. I’m smart, he thinks. But the brain, albeit with good intentions, plays a cruel joke with him. Since he is already smart, he needs to support this legend. To do this, he avoids any situation where he might look stupid. And looks for any situation to confirm that he is smart. That is, he is looking for easy ways that he has already been trained in. And he avoids hard ones, where he doubts his own abilities.

One of the tasks of our subconscious is to maintain our self-image. Any threat to it is perceived as potential death. And the brain has many tools to prevent this outcome.

To protect a well-established self-image, a person can justify his most stupid actions. Then he can look in the mirror with a smart face, saying to himself: “You’re awesome. And they are just dumb.”

I had to maintain the legend of being smart. And I did it in stupid ways. I was unconsciously looking for jobs where I could avoid responsibility, look smart, and people would say to me: “You’re so smart!” I was scared shitless of making even the slightest mistake! The thought of not being able to complete some task could paralyze me for a few hours. In my head, I played the scenarios of how bad it would be when it turns out that I am actually dumb. I felt like an impostor who was about to be revealed.

Under no circumstances you should praise a child, an adult, yourself, or anyone (especially your dog) for any result or inherent quality. You can’t just say, “You are so smart/strong/handsome/etc.” You must always add something like, “You probably put a lot of effort into this.”

It is necessary to praise the process of getting the results, not the results themselves.

Wrong praise:

  • “You completed this task so well!

Correct praise:

  • “You did very well! You must have worked hard!”

Even if you give your child a difficult task and he/she completes it much faster than you thought, you cannot praise him/her for that. It just means that he has outgrown this level, and he needs new heights. In this case, you must make this clear for the child, saying something like, “Sorry, I wasted your time. Let’s do something really worthwhile.”

I would also like to note that this rule applies if you are encouraging yourself too. You can’t just say: “I’m handsome!” You have to say, “I’m fucking awesome!” Just kidding. It is the process that needs to be praised. At the end, you should always add something like, “I did a good job/gave my best/worked hard/etc.”

This way, you are encouraging the process of developing skills and obtaining results, and not the results themselves. You reinforce the belief that if you put in enough effort, then you will succeed. And if you fail at something, it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. It only means that you are learning. You are learning from the results obtained.

To develop a growth mindset, it is also beneficial to insert the word “YET” into any negative statement about yourself. For example, “I can’t write articles” can be restated as “I can’t write articles YET.” It might seem a trifle, but the message is entirely different. The first statement implies a given that cannot be changed, which corresponds to a fixed mindset. The latter option expresses an intention to acquire a skill, and it implies that this skill CAN be acquired. A massive difference from just one word — “YET.”

False growth mindset

People may believe that they have growth mindsets when they don’t. The psychological immune system is very subtle in doing its job. Its task is to prevent a person from thinking poorly of themselves. It is because of this that many people tend to blame anyone but themselves.

One such misconception is the belief that you just need to work hard or praise hard work. For example, a person sits in the office for 8 hours just for show. Or he does the same thing all the time with the hope that the result will become better.

Working hard is not enough. It is essential to systematically improve your skills. If your approach doesn’t work, you must try new strategies.

It is important:

  • to work hard
  • adjust the course regularly, learn from the feedback, master new strategies
  • seek help from knowledgeable people.

It is also a delusion to believe that one should praise hard work, even if it didn’t take place. Your words must be sincere. And praise is not always appropriate. Sometimes the best strategy is to simply show interest.

Resources

In this article, I’ve focused on highlighting what I think is the most important about fixed and growth mindsets. And I hope I caused a desire in you to process the information presented and draw your own conclusions.

This is the most effective way to learn, I discovered for myself — actively reflecting on the information received and making a place for it in your worldview.

For an in‑depth study of this topic, I recommend reading the book “Mindset” by Carol Dweck. I sincerely consider it the most important book to read for whoever wants to grow in any area. That is, everyone.

Crucial points

  • Fixed mindset beliefs:
    • All my knowledge and skills are fixed. They will remain what they are.
    • If I have to work hard on it, then it’s not meant for me.
    • Successful people are just very talented.
    • If I have problems, then something is wrong with me.
    • It is important how people evaluate me.
  • Growth mindset beliefs:
    • I can acquire any knowledge or skill, if I apply enough effort to it.
    • If I got a bad outcome, it means that I need to adjust my approach or put in more effort.
    • Successful people are successful because they worked hard on themselves.
    • If I have problems, it means I must learn something.
    • It is important to continuously grow.
  • For the growth mindset, the world is a playground, an arena for experimentation.
    For the fixed one, it’s a massive injustice and a game of survival.
  • It’s essential to always note the importance of process, and not the result.
  • It is necessary to praise the process of getting the results, not the results themselves. You can’t just say, “You are so smart/strong/handsome/etc.” You must always add something like, “You probably put a lot of effort into this.”
  • To develop a growth mindset, it is also beneficial to insert the word “YET” into any negative statement about yourself. For example, “I can’t write articles” can be restated as “I can’t write articles YET.”
  • Working hard is not enough. It is essential to systematically improve your skills. If your approach doesn’t work, you must try new strategies.