What defines a successful person?
Many things can contribute to success, but one thread remains constant across examples of successful people in the real world — the adoption of a growth mindset over a fixed one.
We may not fully realize it, but the mental spaces we inhabit have far-reaching consequences in our lives. To achieve the potential that God has imbued within us, we must become comfortable with changing our mindsets accordingly.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at the psychological research around mindsets. We will also refer to some Bible passages about the topic in order to find out how to become the best versions of ourselves.
Carol Dweck is an American Stanford University professor of psychology whose work in human motivation has shaped the way we think about learning.
She was the first to propose the model of a ‘fixed’ vs ‘growth’ mindset in her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” after noticing the relationship between expectations and outcomes of academic performance in her students.
Her main thesis revolves around the question, “Do our opinions on whether intelligence is static or developmental have an effect on our performance?”
And in her opinion, they definitely do.
She proposed that these deep-seated beliefs about our natural ability to succeed inform our words, actions, and motivations.
If you maintain the unfavorable mindset that everyone is simply born with a fixed set of traits that determine their success, you will come to believe that overcoming challenges is impossible because of internal negative feedback loops.
However, if you adopt the mindset that everyone has a baseline level of natural ability that can be developed, you’ll begin to seek ways in which to enhance your innate abilities for more success.
You’ll understand that deliberate practice offers new skills and hard work leads to meaningful improvement.
Dr. Dweck also put forward that this thesis has a strong basis in neuroscience. When we step out of our comfort zone by attempting to develop new skills, we create new connections in our synapses.
This means that moving away from an ‘I can’t’ default mindset actually alters the structure of our brains.
That’s the science, but how well does it apply to real life?
Let’s look at an example to see a growth vs fixed mindset in practice.
Take exercise. If you’ve never done it before, running for miles and miles might seem both unlikely and uninteresting — but is that mainly because you’ve never considered yourself to be a ‘natural runner’ before?
When you adopt a growth mindset, the idea of a ‘natural runner’ does not exist.
You might start to apply a growth mindset by buying a pair of running shoes. Then, you learn the fundamentals of running posture and pace. You try it for the first time and record a one-mile run. Next time, you aim for two, and so on.
The fixed mindset person never even entertained the idea of running, as they believed that they were fundamentally not cut out for it. By this point, the growth mindset person could already be logging four-mile runs.
As with nearly everything else in life that we encounter, there are words and passages on the notion of growth, and by extension the growth mindset, in the Bible.
The inspiring words offer us a timeless insight into what it means to develop as one of God’s children and the reasons why doing so is an expression of love and gratitude for God.
“But when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:10-12).
This is a beautiful representation of the stages and necessity of growth. This scripture reminds us of the fundamental expression of growth, which is to become older. As we do so, we do away with childish thoughts, reasoning, and speech in the process.
Only from this point can we access all the rewarding challenges of adulthood, with all of its new capabilities and responsibilities.
In a way, childishness (as described in Corinthians) is symbolic of the fixed mindset. No child wants to grow old and take on the work that comes with aging.
Similarly, nobody with a fixed mindset is motivated to do things that are challenging. As a result, they cannot access the rewards of self-esteem and validation, as well as the inherent joy of the learning process.
“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green” (Psalm 92:12-14).
In this Psalm passage, we can see that growth itself is a virtue. The righteous, meaning those who are faithful servants of Christ, are the recipients of flourishing and fruit-bearing.
God gave us all the gifts of life, expression, and ability. By embracing God’s gifts through accepting new challenges with a growth mindset, we can express our gratitude in the most beautiful way.
Thanks to Dr. Dweck’s research, we can begin to flourish into new mindsets that breed success.
We can also develop a new appreciation for the success of others. And, we can understand that the specific mindset we adopt has cascading effects.
This can determine our ability to achieve what we want to achieve in life — not only for ourselves but also as an expression of the Holy Spirit that exists within us all.