Why Your Attitude to Learning is More Important than Intelligence and Innate Abilities
Frequently in my practice, I hear clients express concerns about not feeling “good enough” and how their low self-esteem and poor self-confidence are holding them back. They feel “stuck” in life and worry that they are never going to be as successful as they had hoped to be. Often they will mention how others at their workplace or in their family circle, seem so much more successful and they are convinced it’s due to superior intelligence or innate capabilities that they themselves don’t possess.
While occasional self-doubt is normal, a mindset fixed in the belief that you won’t be successful is not only unhealthy but almost sure to prove you right! That’s because mindset is hugely important to outcome. In fact, it was this insightful thinking that triggered Henry Ford’s now-legendary remark, “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” In this article, I invite you to consider that it may be your attitude to learning that is playing a significant role in how you see yourself, your potential, and your ability to succeed.
In her book Mindset; the New Psychology of Success, 2016, Carol Dweck sheds light on our attitude toward learning and its impact on personal success and personal growth. Research shows that there are two types of mindset, a growth mindset, and a fixed mindset. People with a growth mindset are likely to have a more positive attitude toward learning new notions and skills and have more staying power and grit when it comes to persevering to master something difficult. As well, individuals with a growth mindset love what they do and continue to love it even when it gets more challenging.
People with a fixed mindset tend to believe that success and a high level of expertise are predetermined by natural abilities and innate talent rather than by applying a greater degree of effort. They see the need to work hard as a lack of intelligence or talent and even as shameful. Consequently, they tend to give up rather than put in a significant amount of effort to succeed. In general, fixed mindset individuals are not good at estimating their true abilities and perceive anything other than positive feedback as bad news and a threat to their self-perception.
Fortunately, each of us has the potential to transition from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. As well, if we do have a fixed mindset, it may be only toward some aspects of learning and we may have a growth mindset toward other aspects.
Are you in a growth or fixed mindset? This chart will help you decide:
|Growth Mindset||Fixed Mindset|
|You see your personal potential as limitless.
|You see personal potential as limited.|
|You have a passion for learning.
|You avoid new and uncomfortable situations for fear of not succeeding right away.|
|You believe you can develop yourself.
|You are constantly trying to prove yourself.|
|You see failure as an opportunity to try again and do better. Mistakes do not negatively impact your sense of self or your confidence.
|You see mistakes as utter failures and a reason to stop attempting to learn. Individuals with a fixed mindset have a fragile level of self-confidence, particularly when facing a setback or when a high level of effort is necessary. Individuals with a fixed mindset are aware of their shaky sense of self and constantly nursing their confidence.
|You are realistic about your abilities and seek feedback to understand where you stand and how to improve.
|You see feedback as a threat or an attack. You might make excuses for your lack of success and often blame uncontrollable external forces for your lack of achievement.
|You believe that you can cultivate your abilities.||You believe “If I can’t learn, it means I lack abilities and I will feel ashamed if everyone discovers that about me”.|
|You accept there may be a steep learning curve to master something complex or difficult.
|You hear your own self-limiting belief “I will never succeed” and stop trying.
|You believe success comes from hard work and not luck.||You believe success comes from being gifted not hard work.|
|Hearing discouraging comments such as “You will never succeed,” boosts your resolve to achieve.
|You likely stop trying before anyone notices you are struggling.|
|You think “If this is hard, it is worth mastering it,”.||You likely think “It should not be this hard,” and move on to what you excel at rather than persist.|
Whether you feel you have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset, neither is carved in stone. Mindset is fuelled by our belief system, so it’s important to listen to your inner voice and consider if you are imposing limits on yourself unnecessarily. We cannot always control what happens to us, but we can change our inner dialogue and our reactions to events and situations. So, if you recognize yourself as living with a fixed mindset, coaching can be a great start to helping you create the life you want.
For more information about the importance of mindset contact Forge Coaching & Consulting at