There is magic in your mindset
I have never really understood the word “can’t”. Sure, whatever I want might be hard to get, it might take years, I might end up changing my mind before I achieve a goal, but “can’t” seems like a useless word.
My aversion to the word “can’t” goes back to my childhood. Neither my mother nor my father ever let me think for one second that I couldn’t reach my goals. It’s not like they were rooting for me, exactly, saying things like, “You can do whatever you want in life.” No. My parents worked their butts off. They showed me just how hard it is to reach goals. But they never gave up and, as a result, they did amazing things in spite of gigantic odds. My parents showed me that if you really put effort into something, you can accomplish more than you ever thought was possible.
To put in that kind of effort, to persevere even when times are rough, my parents had to first believe that success was possible. This belief that success is possible is the magic of mindset. It is the scientifically-proven phenomenon that believing in something actually makes it more likely to be true. A large amount of research has been conducted showing that believing in the ability to grow and improve really does make it more likely that you will. Want to be more successful? Want to get better grades? Want to live a happier, more fulfilling life? Change your mindset to one of growth, progress, and expansion.
Growth mindset - a term coined by researcher Carol Dweck - is a widely used and accepted approach to increasing success in multiple life domains. Many of the world’s largest companies have already adopted the idea that Growth Mindset will result in improved curiosity, performance, and ultimately, revenue for the company. They suggest that we can just switch out mindsets and suddenly we will all be able to do anything we believe in.
Uh oh. The magic of mindset is starting to sound an awful lot like a magic bullet.
It is human nature to search for, and believe in, magic bullets - or quick easy solutions to difficult problems. The idea that something so simple could guarantee riches, or happiness, or success is so appealing to us that we cannot help but believe it. Unfortunately, the moment we start to believe mindset is a magic bullet the real magic disappears.
Difficult problems rarely have simple solutions. When we believe the solutions will be simple, we set ourselves up for failure. Suddenly, the magic of mindset blows up in our face. Don’t forget, believing that success is possible is only the first step in accomplishing the impossible. There are many, many, many more steps to follow. As Carol Dweck reminds us, even geniuses work hard.
For these reasons, I advise people to be careful about how they think about and use growth mindset. I view mindset as a limiting factor - or a skill that can prevent happiness and success if you don’t have it. It makes sense that if you don’t believe success is possible, you are unlikely to ever work towards it. Without a growth mindset, you are going to have a really hard time achieving you goals. But I warn people that just because you do have a growth mindset, this does not mean that POOF, you are on the road to success. You have to take action. You have exert effort. In fact, acting on a growth mindset usually means that you will work harder than you ever have in your life. You will work hard becuase success suddenly seems possible and worth the effort.
IS YOUR MINDSET PREVENTING YOU FROM BEING SUCCESSFUL?
Because of the importance of mindset, I always start my programs with a brief lesson on mindset. Mindset is the concept behind popular books like The Secret and pop-psychology techniques such as “using affirmations”. Despite the hokeyness of these popular approaches, there is actually a considerable amount of research supporting the idea that our mindsets fundamentally shape our lives. But remember, mindset is not a magic bullet. It’s not that “believing makes it so”. Rather, your mindset changes your behavior in what turns out to be very significant ways.
The reason I always start my programs with a foundational lesson on mindset is because believing we can change our emotions has a huge impact on whether or not we actually do. If you don’t think increasing your happiness and success is possible, why would you bother to do anything to be happier or more successful? If you don’t have the mindset that you really can make money doing what you love, then none of the scientifically-supported, validated, and tested techniques will help you. Your belief that you can’t change your life turns out to be a self-fulling prophecy. It actually prevents you from being able to change.
Because mindset will crucially affect the benefit that you'll get from everything I will teach you, let me take a moment to see if I can’t change your mindset, even just a little bit.
TEST YOUR MINDSET
I believe that I can find my passion, live my purpose, and make money doing it.
Strongly disagree Strongly agree
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Making sense of your score: This score represents your current mindset. High scores indicate a mindset that is more capable of absorbing information and learning skills that will help you get where you ant to go.
I don’t want you to freak out if you have a low score. Even if the skills you learn are less helpful initially, some of my research suggests that just by gaining mastery of a skill, you’ll improve your mindset. You’ll discover for yourself that you have what it takes to reach your dreams. That experience itself will start to change your mindset about just how possible it is to change your life.
ACTIVITY: BUILD YOUR MINDSET
Let’s do a little mindset-building activity. Take a few moments to think about a time you learned something that was difficult. Maybe you learned calculus. Maybe you learned to do a back flip. Or maybe you learned how to build a fence.
Take about 5 minutes to write about the steps you took to learn this skill. What were the roadblocks? How did you overcome them?
Now, try to think of a time you learned a happiness skill. This may be harder because we aren't accustomed to thinking about happiness in terms of skills. Use the following examples to help you think of some happiness skills you may have learned.
Write about the happiness skill you learned. It could be anything that helped you feel better about a situation, about yourself, about others, or about the world.
When you are done, ask yourself: "Was I able to learn new things that improved my life?" If the answer is yes, then know that you can learn anything else too. You can learn how to create a career that you love, and you can make money doing it.
You will see that there are all kinds of ways you can find your passion, live your purpose, and make money doing what you love. Your beliefs about your potential for success will begin to change. I know that may be hard to believe. We often have a difficult time believing something that we have not seen before. If you have been unsuccessful in the past, it makes sense that you would be skeptical. The best advice I can give you is to keep going, don't give up, and witness for yourself that your dreams are closer than you think.
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at Berkeley, she started creating online content & programs to boost well-being—some of these have reached more than a million people. As author of Outsmart Your Smartphone, and contributor to Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis aims to share her insights on happiness & health with people all across the world. Learn more about Dr. Davis.