How to Succeed in Anything? It’s All in the Mindset

There are two kinds of mindsets. One is the fixed mindset. This is when you tell yourself you are something and look for affirmations to prove it. Whether you think you’re a success or a failure, you’ll look for ways to prove it. You feel you can’t change either in a meaningful way.

The second kind of mindset is what’s known as a growth mindset. And when people have this mindset, they believe they can grow. Even if they think they’re successful, they believe that can be more successful. And if they see failure, rather than be defined by it, they see it as an opportunity to learn and improve.

But How?

In a study of hundreds of students, psychologist Carol Dweck found that those who had been praised for being “smart” at random generally turned down trying out a new task they were told was hard. On the other hand, 90% students who had been praised at random for the effort they put into their work were willing to try the new difficult task.

And the reason for this is simple. The students who had been praised for being smart thought of the challenging task as a threat to their intellect. But the effort-praised students thought differently. Rather than seeing the harder task as a threat, they thought of it as an opportunity to put more effort in and grow.


Beyond not trying out new things, a fixed mindset also seemed to encourage lying. When asked to write anonymously about their test scores, around 40% of the students praised for intelligence lied about their scores. They reported them higher than they really were.

According to Dweck, being “intelligent” had become so important to their self-esteem, that they couldn’t even tell the truth anonymously to a piece of paper for a person they’d never meet. In just trying to keep up with a label they’d thought would make them well-accepted by others, these students would have rather lied than be honest about their efforts. 

To conclude, people who have a growth mindset tend to try out more new things. Rather than seeing them as a threat, they see them as ways to grow. This comes as people with a fixed mindset tend to avoid difficult-sounding tasks to keep their identity intact. And so, by simply trying and looking for opportunities rather than cop-outs, people with growth mindsets are likely to grow more and have more success than those with fixed mindsets.


Sarah Chung

Raised in Hong Kong, now living in New York. A serial optimist, I love finding ways to improve to enjoy life even more.