Do you believe that you are either good at math or bad at math? You can’t change it no matter how much you try? That is what is called a fixed mind-set. In other words, you believe that your abilities are fixed and cannot be changed.
Confidence is less about what you were born with, and more about what you make of yourself.
Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, found that the most successful and fulfilled people in life always believe they can improve, that they can still learn things. Let’s go back to the example of how women and men approach their math skills. Most women think their abilities are fixed. They’re either good at math or bad at math. The same goes for a host of other challenges that women tend to take on less often than men do: leadership, entrepreneurship, public speaking, asking for raises, financial investment, even parking the car.
Many women think, but I’ve never had the confidence to try. It’s not that I assume I wouldn’t be good at it—I assume I’d be terrible at it, that I’m not a natural businessperson, driver, investor, speaker, and on and on we go.
Running a workshop, I feel quite confident, but being a keynote speaker terrifies me. I realize now that the only way to get the confidence I need would be to give it a try. And Dweck’s work allows me to see this as a skill set to develop rather than one I innately have or don’t have.
The key to creating a growth mind-set is to start small. Think about what you praise in yourself or your kids. If you praise ability by saying, “You’re so smart” or “You’re so good at tennis; you’re a natural athlete,” you are instilling a fixed mind-set.
If, however, you say, “You’ve worked so hard at tennis, especially your backhand,” you are encouraging a growth mind-set.
Making a distinction between talent and effort is critical.
If we believe that somehow we’re given talents at birth that we can’t control, then we’re unlikely to believe we can really improve on areas in which we’re weak. But when success is measured by effort and improvement, then it becomes something we can control, something we can choose to improve upon. It encourages mastery.
Do you have a fixed or growth mind-set?
Listen to that chatter in your head. And listen to your language when supporting others.