You hear a great deal in psychology about the ability to be resilient and its impact on living a healthy flourishing life. Resilience is indeed a powerful asset, particularly when you combine it with a growth mindset. If you want to be a successful person you need two important psychological characteristics. First, you need to be growth minded and secondly, you need to be resilient. If you’re a growth minded resilient person you can do most anything. Let me enlighten you to why this is the case.
Having a growth mindset is important because it shapes your understanding of failure. Carol Dweck, a prominent social psychologist at Stanford University has done a great deal of research on what makes some people more successful than others. There’s a great ted talk she did on the power of believing you can watch here if you like. The basic idea of her theory is there are two ways we process failure. The first way of processing failure is referred to as having a fixed mindset. Someone with a fixed mindset tends to see failure as a judgement about who they are. If they fail a test that failure isn’t just a judgement about how well they learned the material, it’s a judgement about who they are. People become fixed mindset oriented because over the course of their life they’ve been told “you’re really smart”, or “You’re a great musician” which psychologically links one’s self-identification with achievement. Who they are is affirmed by what they do. If they fail at anything that failure is experienced as a loss of part of themselves, not just an assessment of their ability.
People with a growth mindset view failure in a completely different way. When they fail they want to know how to do things differently the next time they try to accomplish their goals. For them failure is one step in learning to do something better. It’s only one point of data in a lifetime of becoming accomplished at some task. Sure, they don’t like failing, but they don’t experience failure as a statement about who they are. Failure is only an assessment of how well they performed something and a potential key to performing it better. People with a growth mindset have generally been complimented on their work effort. They’ve been told the work and effort they put into things makes a difference in their performance. It’s not that these people work harder than those with a fixed mindset, rather they’ve been assured the reason they’re successful isn’t because of who they are but rather how hard they work. For them, failure isn’t a judgement about who they are but rather the work they’ve done. Growth mindset people understand failure simply means they need to adjust how and what they do, not become something other than who they are! If you want to be successful become someone with a growth mindset who recognizes failure is nothing more than a hint on how to do things better the next time. If you see failure as a step towards success you’re less likely to give up. Thomas Edison said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Fixed mindset people are afraid to try “one more time” because that might be one more time they hear how they’re a failure. Growth mindset people try “one more time” because it helps them adjust their strategy and get one step closer to succeeding!
Along with a growth mindset, resilience is a key characteristic of successful people. If you want to be able to get past the adversity of failure you need to be resilient. Resilience is the process one uses to adapt to and overcome adversity, trauma, tragedy, and any other stressful life event. Failure is stressful even for growth mindset people. Resilience isn’t something you’re born with it’s something you develop. You develop resilience through strong relationships that provide you with a solid emotional support base. You need to avoid seeing failure as catastrophic, accept that change is a part of life that should be embraced, as well as view life as an opportunity for self-discovery and growth. Resilient people keep things in perspective, maintain a hopeful outlook on life, and take decisive action. In short, resilient people are solution focused people not problem focused people. While life involves pain and suffering, pain and suffering are opportunities to learn, grow, and develop into better people.
So, do you want to be successful in whatever you do? First, become growth mindset oriented and see every failure as merely an assessment on what you did as well as an opportunity to do something differently. Secondly, become resilient. Don’t give up; go after your goal again drawing on the people who make up your support system for help. Take what you learned about yourself when you failed and apply that knowledge to succeed the next time. Don’t turn your failure into some big scary monster, look at it realistically and with a solution focused orientation. Resilience keeps you rebounding and a growth mindset keeps you in the race. If you can develop these two psychological characteristics you’re on your way to being a successful, flourishing human being. Try it today. Set your goal and go after it with passion, resilience, and a growth mindset and see what you can accomplish!