How a simple but groundbreaking idea can help us expanding our Comfort Zone
What can we learn from Carol S. Dweck on the power of mindset?
Let’s start with an experiential test.
Imagine yourself faced with a challenge—something new to you and something for which you are not well prepared. Take your time and try to identify a specific situation like this. Now, in the spirit of self-discovery, step back and assess yourself.
- How do you feel?
- How do you cope with difficulty?
- How do you approach a challenge?
In psychological study on children, Carol S. Dweck, PhD found that there were two basic mindsets. She recounts her findings in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:
I gave 10-year-olds problems that were slightly too hard for them. Some of them reacted in a shockingly positive way. They said things like, “I love a challenge,” or, “You know, I was hoping this would be informative.” They understood that their abilities could be developed. They had what I call a growth mindset. But other students felt it was tragic, catastrophic. From their more fixed mindset perspective, their intelligence had been up for judgment, and they failed. Instead of luxuriating in the power of yet, they were gripped in the tyranny of now.
When I began this journey of trying to find an answer to the question, “Is it possible to train ourselves for change?”, I didn’t know anything about the power of mindset. I had never heard of Carol S. Dweck. But then I saw her TED Talk titled “The Power of Believing That You Can Improve” and another talk she gave at Google called “The Growth Mindset.”
But then I saw her TED Talk titled “The Power of Believing That You Can Improve” and another talk she gave at Google called “The Growth Mindset.”
After seeing those, my world changed forever.
The power of believing that you can improve
What it comes down to is that success in any endeavor—school, work, sports, the arts—can be influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. This idea is backed by decades of research carried out by Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, who discovered a simple but groundbreaking idea: the power of mindset.
Her research indicates that there are two kinds of people:
- People with a fixed mindset: Those who believe that abilities are fixed.
- People with a growth mindset: Those who believe that abilities can be developed.
A fixed mindset can be limiting, but a growth mindset can be liberating.
Mindset and Comfort Zone Shake-Up
When we talk about the HOW of the Comfort Zone Shake-up, I mention that recognizing your mindset and cultivating one that is aimed toward growth is an important piece of the framework. Re-orienting yourself toward a growth mindset can have a profound effect on how you approach so many aspects of your life.
Go back to the test we did at the beginning of this article and remember how you felt. Was your mindset fixed like the children in Dweck’s research who felt the challenge was a catastrophe? Or did you look forward to the challenge as an opportunity to learn?
Understanding your default approach is the first step. If you tend toward a fixed mindset, the next time you find yourself becoming worked up and frustrated over a challenge, try to catch yourself. Step back a moment, examine how you feel, and look at how your mindset is fueling those emotions.
Then try to shake up your perspective. Look at the challenge you’re facing with a growth mindset. What can you learn from the experience? How will you be stronger, wiser, or better at something after you overcome this challenge?
If ability is something that can be developed, that has important implications. It means that attempting something that’s a challenge—expanding your comfort zone—doesn’t have to be threatening. If you try something new and aren’t immediately great at it, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure—it means you’re not good at it yet.
“Yet” is the operative word here. It is the answer to the question “Can we train ourselves for change?” With the right mindset, I believe we certainly can.
Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash