“Don’t tell me how talented you are. Tell me how hard you work.”
Arthur Rubenstein, world-renowned pianist
“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates a talented individual from a successful one is a lot of hard work.”
Here’s one more ingredient in the recipe for success that we writers can benefit from cultivating: a growth mindset. In her breakthrough book, Mindset, Dr. Carol S. Dweck, one of the world’s leading researchers on motivation, explores how people’s views on the nature of ability affect their performance.
Dweck defines two core beliefs: a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset.” People with a fixed mindset believe that their talents and abilities are predetermined and limited, while those with a growth mindset believe that their talents and abilities can be developed and improved through effort and persistence.
People with a fixed mindset worry about being seen as smart — basically, they want to be viewed this way all the time. As you’d expect, this leads them to fear appearing foolish and to carefully avoid making mistakes — all of which makes them risk averse. On the other hand, having a growth mindset motivates people to discover new possibilities, make mistakes, absorb lessons, improve, change, and expand their horizons.
Here’s the good news: A growth mindset isn’t something you’re born with and a fixed mindset isn’t something we’re saddled with for life. While some of our worldview is probably an issue of temperament — a good share is also the result of conditioning. In other words, having a fixed, more rigid mindset is partly the result of habit and training. And even people who generally meet challenges with a growth mindset can have a fixed mindset in some areas of their life.
If you think a fixed mindset is affecting your writing by making you feel that you can’t really improve or that you shouldn’t take risks on the page, take heart! According to Dweck, you can take steps to cultivate a more flexible, expansive attitude — one that can give you the motivational fuel you need to succeed.
First, you can become more aware of what mindset you are acting from. As you listen to yourself and observe the decisions you make, you can identify whether you have an expansive or a limited outlook. Second, you can reframe your view by using positive self-talk. Instead of saying, “I give up!” tell yourself, “This may take me more time and effort.” Instead of “That plan failed,” you can ask, “What’s the next idea I can try out?” For more advice and insights, why not check out Mindset? And as always, remember that a little self-compassion goes a long way. Write on!