A New Take on the Psychology of Success
In biological studies there is this dichotomy: nature or nurture. Does the organism behave the way they do because they were born this way or is it because they learned the particular behavior? This same question is central to a study of humans, they being biological creatures, after all.
In fact, some of the most divisive truths revolve around this question. For instance, is the underrepresentation of women in the computer sciences due to their biology not being suited to or causing their lack of interest in those particular pursuits, or do they learn, either on purpose or by accident, that only boys pursue such tasks? Are the disproportionate number of Blacks in sports and Jews in medicine due to genetics or societal pressures? And do guys leave the toilet seat up because they’re naturally oblivious?
In the book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dr. Carol Dweck examines the behavior of success and how the beliefs, or mindset, of how we think about our own abilities affects our outcomes. When my business coach, Jay Feldman, suggested I read this book, I figured it was just another tome filled with psychobabble to get me motivated. Holding a B.S. in Psychology and being plenty motivated as a business owner to succeed, I bought the book just to humor him.
What I found in it though, was a profound question: Are human qualities things that can be cultivated or are they carved in stone? This question isn’t new. Dweck then asked me to consider this: Are innate abilities fully in place and just need to be realized, or are they acting as seedlings, with the potential to bloom once nurtured?
The first concept, that your qualities are fully in place, is labeled by Dweck as the fixed mindset. The latter, that you are born with base abilities that can grow across time, she calls the growth mindset. In the fixed mindset, you are what you are. You have a ceiling as to how well you can do a task, and once you reach it there’s not much you can do about it—your ability has a fixed ceiling.
Does that mean that people with a growth mindset think that anyone of us can be a Hank Aaron, Tchaikovsky, or Einstein? Not at all, but they do believe that the person’s true potential is unknown and unknowable. Only years of study, practice, and application can reveal just how far a person can go with the abilities they have inside them.
It may seem like this is a bit of splitting hairs; at least until you realize how each mindset translates to a person’s actions. Dr. Dweck’s research indicates that those with a fixed mindset tended to spend their energy proving to those around them the level of natural ability they had. Those with a growth mindset were less consumed with showing off to others how smart or talented they were, instead they focused on developing those abilities.
And which, my dear business person, would you rather employ?
Whether you agree or disagree with Dweck’s take on this, it’s worth consideration. If these ideas have you piqued, then you may want to read her book. She offers suggestions for (and examples from) parents, teachers, coaches and bosses, and examines how love, competition, and even the Enron debacle are affected by this mindset concept.
This article was published under the title "Book views talent, growth, success" in the Wichita Falls Times Record News May 2012 Biz to Biz.
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