Put simply, mindset is the lens through which we personally view the world. It’s a collection of our dominant beliefs and thoughts and we wear it like a pair of glasses with a unique pair of lenses – made by me for me. The glasses color everything we see and they let certain information in and keep other information out. In this way, they affect what is possible in life.
Carol Dwek, psychologist and author of the book Mindset, says people have fixed mindsets and growth mindsets. For people in a fixed mindset, past experiences prove who we are and what we are good or bad at. We are either smart or not smart, a good athlete or a bad athlete. A bad or good grade or making the team or not proves these things. The fixed mindset says you are who you are, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
For people in a growth mindset, however, past performance simply indicates past effort and training or the lack of it. There is always the possibility for change, learning, and growth. A poor grade means something needs to change (more study maybe). A great grade, getting picked for a team, or having your artwork selected means you worked hard and it paid off. The growth mindset is all about being optimistic because we believe our decisions and actions have a powerful affect on the outcome.
According to Dwek, “In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”
How does mindset affect quality of life?
People with a fixed mindset has fewer opportunities because they see fewer opportunities, whereas, a person with a growth mindset sees more and therefore has more. Seeing fewer opportunities in general means fewer chances for happiness and fulfillment in all aspects of life. But what is happiness and wellbeing? Martin Seligman, psychologist, author and father of the Positive Psychology movement created the Well-Being Theory to define it.
Well-being has five measurable elements (PERMA) that count toward it.
Positive Emotion (Of which happiness and life satisfaction are all aspects)
Meaning and purpose
No one element defines well-being, but each contributes to it.
If we combine Dwek’s theory of the fixed and growth mindset with each component of Seligman’s Well-Being Theory, we can easily see how mindset limits or expands the possibilities of our life. Our mindset basically determines how happy and fulfilled we can be.