The Single Greatest Thing You Can Do To Increase Levels Of Achievement

Two kids take a math test.  Both get a “C.”  One kid looks at his grade and thinks, “I’m just not good at math.  I don’t know why I bother studying.” The other looks at her grade and thinks, “I should have studied more.  Next time I’ll study harder and do better.” 

Both have the same grade, but they approach the situation with different mindsets. 

The first kid believes his intelligence is fixed and cannot be improved.  The second sees her grade as an opportunity to improve, and something that’s within her power to control.

This is important to understand as there are two mindsets we can take when we approach our life and work: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.

  • People with a fixed mindset believe abilities are static and cannot be changed.  They think you are either good at something or you’re not, and there’s very little you can do about it.
  • People with a growth mindset believe that you can develop abilities.  They see challenge and failure as an opportunity to grow, and the effort you make is all the difference.

Carol Dweck, a psychologist and Professor at Stanford, pioneered the concept of a growth mindset based on decades of research.  She found that people with growth mindsets repeatedly have higher levels of achievement and success in school, business, and life.

One of the largest studies found that lower achieving students that adopted a growth mindset significantly improved their GPAs both in their core courses and in Math and Science.

Increasingly, businesses are creating company cultures with a growth mindset.  Intel includes it in their corporate values, and a growth mindset was a key element Satya Nadella used in his corporate turnaround at Microsoft.

Companies are also looking for people who exhibit a growth mindset, like Linkedin CEO Jeff Weiner who counted it as a top attribute for hiring new employees along with dedication and a strong work ethic.

Fortunately, it’s possible to cultivate a growth mindset for yourself and others.  Here are six powerful techniques you can implement to dramatically increase your levels of achievement.

1. Use the Word “Yet” 

When you hit an inevitable struggle remind yourself that you simply haven’t mastered or accomplished your goal “yet.” If you stick with it, keep applying effort, learn, adjust, and persist you’ll get there. 

It’s not never, it’s not yet.  

2. Appreciate the Journey  

Instead of focusing on the destination alone, take pleasure in the journey towards achieving your objective.  This is important because the progression towards your goal with all its challenges, setbacks, twists, and turns is where growth and fulfillment happen.  

By valuing the journey you’ll also avoid what Tal Ben-Shahar calls the “arrival fallacy.”  This is the belief that when we arrive at our destination we’ll be happy, when in actuality it rarely makes us as happy as we expected.  This is because by the time we achieve our goal we have already factored it into our happiness, and our focus has shifted to the next goal. 

3. Embrace Challenge 

Those with a fixed mindset avoid challenge and stay in their comfort zone.  To develop a growth mindset seek out challenges, and embrace them as an opportunity to learn and grow. 

A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there.

4. Learn to Be Okay with Imperfect

Trying to make something perfect prevents you from making it good enough to release into the world.  Perfection is frequently rooted in fear, fear of criticism and fear of rejection.  While it can be a great motivator to perform at high levels, perfection can also delay or hinder the output of our work.  To avoid this, learn to be okay with imperfection.

For example, you can take a step back and look at the big picture of what you’re trying to accomplish.  Is what you’re continuing to perfect essential, or are you nitpicking non-critical items? 

Similarly, you can ask yourself, “Is this fear causing me to perfect this, or is it something truly critical that’s preventing me from completing the task?”

5. Seek and Grow From Feedback 

Feedback can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful.  That’s because even though we want to learn and grow, we also want to be accepted, valued, and respected.  To promote a growth mindset, you’ll want to ask for feedback regularly and grow from it. 

One of my favorite ways to gain feedback is to use a rating system.  For example, you can ask, “On a scale from 1-10 (10 being the highest) how would rate X?”  I’ll then follow up the question with, “What would it take to get to a 10?”  This is powerful as you make it safe for the person to provide additional feedback, while letting them know you want to get better.

Then when receiving feedback, ask clarifying questions and avoid getting defensive by shifting your thinking from “this feedback is wrong” to “tell me more.”

For more insights on receiving feedback, check out my book notes on Thanks for the Feedback:  The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well.

6. Be Inspired by the Success of Others

Jealously and resentment can be destructive.  It’s draining and holds you back from reaching higher levels of achievement.  To avoid this, adopt a growth mindset by being inspired by the success of others. 

A common strategy you can use is to focus on your own journey vs. comparing yourself to others.   

Another great approach is to view opportunities from a lens of abundance vs. scarcity.  Life is rarely a zero-sum game with one opportunity and one winner.  Often there are many more opportunities when you look for them.                  

Additionally, you can learn from the success of others by observing what made them successful, then applying it in your own life.

Where to Go From Here

Adopting a growth mindset is one of the single most powerful ways to achieve your goals.  All that’s left is putting it into practice.

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