If a person is extremely successful quite often that person is perceived as being blessed with a high level of intelligence. But according to decades of research by Stanford University attitude is more responsible for that success than brains.
Psychologist Carol Dweck has spent more than three decades studying attitude and performance and her latest research shows that your attitude is a better predictor of your success than your IQ. The key as to why some people achieve their potential while equally talented others don’t, isn’t ability Dweck found, it’s whether you look at ability as something inherent that needs to be demonstrated or something that can be developed.
Dweck found that people’s core attitudes fall into two categories: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
Dweck explains that people with a fixed mindset believe you either are or aren’t good at something based on your inherent nature, because it’s just who you are. These people consider their abilities, intelligence and talents as being maxed out and cannot be changed. This attitude can create problems when people with this mindset become challenged because anything appears to be more than one can handle consequently making a person feel hopeless and overwhelmed.
People in a growth mindset believe that they can improve with effort. They outperform those with a fixed mindset, even when they have a lower IQ, because they embrace each challenge and treat it as an opportunity to learn something new.
“In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts,” writes Dweck in her book, Mindset, The New Psychology of Success.
Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and skills, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.
The critical point measuring success in life is also how one handles failures, Dweck says. People with a growth mindset approach failure uniquely, “Failure is information, we label it failure, but it’s more like, ‘This didn’t work, and I’m a problem solver, so I’ll try something else.’”
Dweck shows how adopting either a fixed or growth attitude toward talent can profoundly affect all aspects of a person’s life, from parenting and romantic relationships to success at school and on the job.
In her book, she attributes the success of several high-profile chief executives to their growth-mindset, citing an ability to energize a work force. These include John F. Welch Jr. of General Electric, who valued teamwork over individual genius; Louis V. Gerstner Jr. of IBM, who dedicated his book about IBM’s turnaround to “the thousands of IBM’ers who never gave up on their company”; and Ann M. Mulcah, of Xerox who focused on morale and development of her people even as she implemented painful cuts.
But Dweck does not suggest that recruiters ignore innate talent. Instead, she suggests looking for both talent and a growth mindset — people with passion for learning who thrive on challenge and change.
So, it is possible to shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset?
Absolutely, according to Dweck, but “it’s not easy to just let go of something that has felt like yourself for many years,” she writes. Still, she says, “nothing is better than seeing people find their way to things they value.”