How do you cultivate a mindset for success and happiness?
Our mindsets are crucially important because our attitudes and beliefs affect everything we do, feel, think, and experience. Although you might say each of us has one overall mindset, this mindset is made up of many smaller parts. Some of these help us improve our well-being and succeed in the world. Others hurt our ability to do so. That's why developing certain mindsets can greatly help us improve ourselves, enjoy our lives, and be more successful.
Some of the most well-known (and beneficial) mindsets include:
These mindsets are changeable. If you find that you don’t really have much of a particular mindset, you can engage in thought exercises and activities to develop that mindset. So let's talk a bit more about each of these mindsets and how they can be developed.
A growth mindset is the tendency for people to believe that their abilities can be developed through hard work. With a growth mindset, you try harder, you want to learn new strategies, and you seek out feedback when you are stuck (Dweck, 2015). Growth mindset is the most studied type of mindset. Having a growth mindset has been linked to success in a variety of life domains (Yeager et al., 2019). One way to develop a growth mindset is to learn a bit more about neuroplasticity—or the brain's ability to change and grow. Indeed, we have the power to change our brains, learn new things, and develop new skills. When we have a mindset that believes this fully, we're more likely to put in the effort required to learn and grow, which helps us improve our lives in a multitude of ways.
A positive mindset is the tendency to focus on the good things in life rather than the bad. People with a positive mindset may use strategies like gratitude, reappraisal, and savoring to identify the good things and increase their positive emotions (Quoidbach, Mikolajczak, & Gross, 2015). Their attitudes are generally optimistic and they tend to expect the best.
A positive mindset can be great for our well-being and even help us to be more successful. In fact, the broaden and build theory of positive emotion suggests that positive emotions build on themselves, eventually leading to things like professional and relationship success (Fredrickson, 2004).
An entrepreneurial mindset is helpful for those who want to be entrepreneurs, but it's also a really useful mindset for all of us in the modern world. Modern life is undergoing near-constant change and the types of skills needed for entrepreneurship are the same skills that are most useful in adapting to, and coping with, rapid change and uncertainty. That's why an entrepreneurial mindset can be a crucial mindset to develop.
According to a whitepaper on entrepreneurial mindset (Gold & Rodriguez, 2018), this mindset is made up of several important skills including:
Comfort with risk
Creativity & innovation
Critical thinking & problem solving
Initiative & self-reliance
Communication and collaboration
Flexibility & adaptability
These skills are thought to aid academic and career success. Of course, this is a broad range of skills and no one person likely has high levels of all of these skills. So, developing the skills we are weaker at may be the most beneficial approach.
A challenge (vs threat) mindset is thought to arise in performance situations like test-taking, game-playing, athletics, work tasks, and elsewhere. We can either evaluate these situations as a challenge that we can handle or a threat that might beat us.
This mindset is about how we evaluate the demands of the situation and our resources for coping with these demands. Resources may include skills, knowledge, abilities, dispositions (like positive self-esteem), and external support. Demands may include danger, uncertainty, and required effort (Blascovich et al., 2004). The thing is that most of these resources and demands are attitudes, perceptions, and other cognitions—things that we have the power to change.
By pushing ourselves to see our difficult circumstances as challenges that we can handle, we actually respond to these situations in ways that are more beneficial. In fact, a challenge mindset changes our physiology in ways that can make us more successful at the task (Blascovich et al., 2004).
Blascovich, J., Seery, M. D., Mugridge, C. A., Norris, R. K., & Weisbuch, M. (2004). Predicting athletic performance from cardiovascular indexes of challenge and threat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40(5), 683-688.
Dweck, C. (2015). Carol Dweck revisits the growth mindset. Education Week, 35(5), 20-24.
Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). The broaden–and–build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1367-1377.
Gold, T., & Rodriguez, S. (2018). Measuring entrepreneurial mindset in youth: Learning from NFTE’s Entrepreneurial Mindset Index. Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.
Quoidbach, J., Mikolajczak, M., & Gross, J. J. (2015). Positive interventions: An emotion regulation perspective. Psychological bulletin, 141(3), 655.
Yeager, D. S., Hanselman, P., Walton, G. M., Murray, J. S., Crosnoe, R., Muller, C., ... & Paunesku, D. (2019). A national experiment reveals where a growth mindset improves achievement. Nature, 573(7774), 364-369.