Growing up, we’re told that intelligence is the most important factor in achieving success. After all, the student with the highest grades in the class gets made valedictorian, and universities typically accept candidates with the highest test scores. We know that being smart is important, but according to new research from Stanford University, your positive attitude may help more than your IQ.
The mindset-based approach, created by psychologist Carol Dweck, divides humans into two categories– those with a “fixed mindset,” and those with a “growth mindset.”
Dweck, who has spent her career looking at the correlation between attitude and performance, believes these two mindsets are the true factor that determines whether one will be more likely to achieve success or to face failure.
“With a fixed mindset, you believe you are who are and you cannot change,” reports Dr. Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. “People with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with effort,” he explains. “They outperform those with a fixed mindset, even when they have a lower IQ, because they embrace challenges, treating them as opportunities to learn something new.”
Dweck found that individuals with a fixed mindset believe they cannot change, which creates problems when they face challenges and cannot readily adapt. Those with growth mindsets, however, believe they can improve, which encourages them to put in more effort and embrace challenge.
What about the idea that being smart inherently makes individuals more confident? Dr. Bradberry explains that this assumption, although sensible, only applies when tasks seem simple and predictable. “The deciding factor in life is how you handle setbacks and challenges,” he explains. “People with a growth mindset welcome setbacks with open arms.”
So how can we apply this approach in our own lives? According to Dweck, success in life is all about how you deal with failure. “Failure is information,” she says. “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.’”
It’s also important to note that Dweck believes your naturally-inclined attitude can change over time, if you work at it. Anyone can work to develop a different mindset, and by fine-tuning your attitude to better adapt to change, you can become more growth-oriented over time.
We often talk about the importance of reacting mindfully and being flexible, and Dweck’s research proves that these ideas are key when it comes to your ability to thrive. According to Dweck’s research, making the shift in perspective all comes down to responding to the little things that test your patience or your pride. By slowing down, acting mindfully, and seeing obstacles as learning opportunities, we can actively let go of our “fixed mindsets” and learn to embrace growth. At the end of the day, we could all use an occasional attitude check.