The Growth Mindset

How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential

In the 2015 SEA Games, Agatha Wong competed in Wushu. She finished second from the last place. I’m sure she was dissapointed with that. However, in an interview recently, she said “That didn’t stop me because I know I have a long way to go. Looking at my competitors, alam ko na sobrang layo ko pa, so I just kept on going.”

Four years later, in the 2019 SEA Games, she won the Gold Medal!

Agatha Wong had the growth mindset — believing that she can improve. She faced her defeat, accepted it, continued to practice believing that she can succeed with discipline and hard work. She did achieve her dream. Now, she sets her target to win the Asian Games someday.

Growth mindset is believing that you can always improve, not accepting what others have judged you to be. It is a phrase coined by Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University.

To understand what growth mindset it about, it’s important to understand first the opposite of growth mindset — which is the fixed mindset. Fixed mindset is believing that you are born with your innate abilities with no chance of failing or improving. It is the belief that if you are smart, you will be successful in life. Or if you are dumb, you will always be a failure.

The fixed mindset is something that is often given to us through the judgement of other people. Perhaps we were told as a child that we are not going to amount to anything, that we are doomed to failure, and sometimes our own parents and relatives label us. Or our teachers graded us as failures, average through the grades they give us. Or perhaps even standardized college admission tests tell us that we are not even qualified to be admitted to a university. Or our potential employers rejected our applications because they think we are no good.

The fixed mindset is not all about negative thinking. You can also have a fixed mindset if you think are smarter than the rest of the universe. When your parents or teachers tell you “Wow, you are so smart” or “He is genius” or “She is going to go a long way in life”, your mind is conditioned to believe that you have the innate ability. You now have superiority complex. Eventually, when you grow up, you realize that you will not always succeed and you start avoiding things that will test your ability because you want to maintain that aura of a gifted person. This mindset also avoid challenges, or difficult tasks because they don’t want to be seen as failures.

In her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”, Professor Dweck studied students, teachers, parents, professionals in the business world like Lee Iacocca, Jack Welch, the inventor Thomas Edison, professional sports players like Michael Jordan, Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Babe Ruth and many more. The result of her was detailed in her book.

Those who succeeded are not necessarily born with it or simply lucky. The one thing that differentiates them is they believe they can always improve, do better and worked towards achieving it.

Growth mindset people believe that intelligence can be developed.

Growth mindset people have a desire to learn continuously.

Growth mindset people embrace challenges, are not intimidated by defeat or failure but they see it as stepping stones to succeed.

Growth mindset people do not accept final judgements as a definition of their life. They welcome constructive criticism.

The Japanese have a name for this kind of thinking — it’s called kaizen which means “continuous improvement”.

If you stop believing your own limitations and start working towards your dream, then you are on your way to success. Les Brown once said “Others opinion of you does not have to become your reality.”

This interview of Agatha Wong by GMA News exemplifies what Prof. Carol Dweck is talking about — growth mindset.