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The One Thing You Need To Achieve Any Goal

Stashed in: #success, Goals!, Awesome, Feedback, Growth Mindset

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One of my petty little gripes is the dichotomy between the so-called fixed and growth mindsets. I understand that the vast majority of the people who will be interested in this formulation are those who are interested in personal growth... but I think the way this binary is presented is absurdly overweighted and perhaps inappropriately morally freighted. I'd prefer the terms fixed and mutable, or essence vs effort based, or nature vs nurture -- all of which more accurately and neutrally describe the fundamental difference that we're talking about, which is between people who believe their personal qualities are inborn versus those who think potential for change is within their own power.

A concrete example. The entire foundation of 12-step programs is that alcoholics and drug addicts have an inborn propensity to abuse substances until their lives spiral out of control -- therefore any lapse from strict abstinence will inevitably lead to disaster. That's a fixed mindset if I've ever seen one. Yes every individual can choose to abuse or not abuse each day, and each individual can choose to work on the steps every day... but the bedrock assumption is that there is such a thing as "an addict" and that members of the fellowship wouldn't be there if they were not fixed in their identity as addicts. Contrary to the predictions of fixed vs growth, having a fixed mindset in this case does NOT make all self-identified alcoholics/addicts stop trying, ignore feedback, or feel threatened by the success of others. It just makes the self-described alcoholics stop wasting time that there is some "lifehack" that will easily turn them into social drinkers. (None of this is to dispute that addiction is complex and AA doesn't work for everyone -- I'm talking about the people who it does benefit.)

I can come up with endless examples of people working HARDER because they had a fixed belief that they were "good at math" or "a great athlete" or "naturally gifted at music" -- and probably just as many of people who realize that effort is key but never really understand how to direct that effort. So I understand that this fixed-vs-growth thing is overstated for effect, but it bugs me that there is ZERO perceived benefit to a fixed mindset in any formulation I've seen.

There's definitely some benefit to a fixed mindset: the confidence that comes from certainty.

With confidence, a person can do almost anything.

Some of the most successful people were successful because they were so singleminded.

For people who do want to employ a growth mindset, feedback is the one key thing.

Research in both school and work settings has demonstrated how vital feedback is for improving your performance. One study from Harvard Business School found that regular feedback led to substantial improvements in performance on a simple data entry task. Students who receive feedback on their work perform twice as well as students who do not. Gary Latham and Edwin Locke, who study effective goal-setting in organizations, argue that quality feedback is one of the most important factors influencing performance.

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