We live in a society that worships talent, you know, people who possess superior skills and/or intelligence that other mere mortals only wish they had. We celebrate these individuals’ superior skills and intelligence as the primary factor behind their success.
Our society not only worships intelligence but also criticizes failure—sometimes very harshly. We even have a name for failure. We call it losing. Rarely do we tell others (and ourselves) that failure, success and fulfillment go hand-in-hand. It seems as if we have been conditioned to think that unless our lives revolve around great moments, our existence is meaningless.
According to recent research, celebrating intelligence or what appears to be superior skills could have debilitating long-term effects on success outcomes and on one’s psyche. Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation and personality psychology, agues that “an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.”
What is being highlighted here is that people who attribute their accomplishments to intelligence rather than effort are setting themselves up for the BIG let down. This is a huge leap away from intelligence and superior skills. That is, to say that A caused B, or intelligence alone led to success is to diminish other important factors that worked in conjunction with intelligence and skill to produce success outcomes.
The growth mindset sees success as a process, a series of deliberate steps and adjustment and fine-tuning in the direction of one’s goals.
Among those significant success factors is effort. The Effort Effect is concerned with people’s judgments about the causes of events and behavior. According to this theory, the key to success is to focus on growth, solving problems and self-improvement. The reality is that intelligence and skill in themselves are not enough to produce lasting success outcomes.
Dweck maintains that it is a person’s mindset that ultimately determines success. And there are two types of mindsets. The first is the fixed mindset, which suggests that people have an inherent unchangeable nature. Some people are smart, others are not, and nothing can be done to change that reality.
Dweck insists that fixed mindset individuals embrace what they have been told, and that is: Only people of a certain intellectual acumen will ever experience success. The persons who adopt the fixed mindset are less likely to task risks or do anything where they might make a mistake. They seldom venture outside of their comfort zone to stretch into new domains.
The second mindset is the growth mindset.
The Growth Mindset:
- Involves stretching one’s learning, taking on new challenges and sticking to them, bouncing back from failures and growing over time and helping others do the same.
- Recognizes and celebrates the process, the strategies, effort, persistence and hard work rather than just intelligence and skill.
- Individuals with a growth mindset have learning goals that inspire a different chain of thought and behavior.
- Treats success as a process, a series of deliberate steps and adjustment and fine-tuning in the direction of one’s goals.
- Asks: What do I value? Do I value mastery or performance?
In essence, the Effort Effect proposes that anyone can perform well enough to get to the top. But only those who master the important lessons such as personal setbacks and disappointments, delays and crisis on the way to the top will have the staying power necessary to experience unparalleled and lasting success.
Dweck, C.S. (2015). The secret of raising smart kids. Scientific American. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-secret-to-raising-smart-kids1/
Dweck, C.S. (2006). Mindset: The Psychology of Success. New York, NY: Random House.
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