I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the past week thinking about happiness and how, really, when you break it all down, it’s what we are all looking for. Our search for happiness sometimes gets sidetracked by the belief that we will find it somehow, outside of ourselves; that other people, or money or possessions can bring us the kind of lifelong happiness that we crave. The fact is that happiness, necessarily, must start from inside us–if you’re already happy, a new car may heighten that happiness for a short time but to the unhappy person, a new car, or any material possession for that matter, may be little or no comfort. Realizing the importance of this quest for happiness, I’ve begun to put together a list of the components that are necessary for a happy life. I wanted to share with you one that was valuable enough to distinguish itself from the pack.
In her essential read Mindset, Carol Dweck, renowned Stanford University Psychologist, puts forth the idea that there’s more to our success (and ultimately, happiness) than just our talents and abilities. The mindset that we choose (and it is a choice), whether is be a fixed or a growth mindset, predicates whether we shackle ourselves with feelings of inferiority or we loose the bonds and tap into our unlimited potential.
The basis of a growth mindset is that you see failure as an opportunity–a chance to learn from your mistakes and become better because of them. You may not enjoy criticism or failure any more than the next guy, but you take that criticism and those failures, weigh them for their value and learn from them. A person with a growth mindset takes 100% responsibility for their actions and the results therein.
With a fixed mindset, admitting failure is like admitting incompetence or inferiority. People with a fixed mindset continually struggle with a wounded self-esteem because everything is personal. They defend, justify, deny or blame when any accusation is leveled against them and in doing so, they give away one of the greatest tools they have.
Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
Consider this: in a work situation you get blamed for the ball being dropped on a big project when you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was a co-worker who didn’t hold up his end of the responsibility. While you may not necessarily take public responsibility for the failure of the project, the person with the growth mindset would review the situation to see what could have been done better or differently to achieve the desired result. What associations could have been cultivated or avoided? How could you have better communicated your understanding of your responsibilities and the responsibilities of others? The growth mindset embraces the failure without becoming the failure. They contemplate the lesson and they move on, unlike the person with the fixed mindset who would spend an inordinate amount of time blaming and fretting and reliving the incident… all to prove to others (and most importantly, to themselves) that they were indeed not responsible and that they are indeed not incompetent.
The truth is, a growth mindset is the exception, not the rule. Potentially, you’ve never met a person with a true growth mindset. Chances are, you don’t know one intimately. But, again, mindset is a choice, and by making the choice to have a growth mindset you’ve set yourself up to have an advantage that is not enjoyed by mere mortals, an advantage that will boost you in any aspect of your life whether it be financial, relationships, sports or, for that matter, happiness.