At some point in my childhood, probably at the age of around 12, I started hating it when my mum told me that I was smart or intelligent. It made me really angry actually (love you mama!).

I now understand why. I saw it as logical that whatever I will face, my success or failure will always be measured by how much work I will put into it. The first time I clearly remember adapting that mindset was when I was 13 and I wanted to improve my dressage riding skills. For me it was obvious – black and white: I will work my ass off in order to succeed. And believe me, I did. And whenever I didn’t, I would analyse my mistakes and try harder and harder every training session.

I never thought of myself or my horse as a failure. I knew I would just have to work harder to make things happen the way I wanted them to. My mom also told me I was talented. Maybe a little. But what I built on top of that solely came from my mindset and the belief that I can do anything I set my mind to.
In most aspects of my life, I have a growth mindset. I don’t seek challenges, I thrive on them. The bigger the challenge, the more I stretch. I don’t view failure as a setback, I view it as the foundation to improve on, I view it as not fulfilling my true potential.

I feel smart when it’s really hard, when I TRY really hard and I can do something I couldn’t do before.

“Failure doesn’t mean you’re not smart. It doesn’t mean that if you were you wouldn’t need effort. Effort is what makes you smart or talented.”
Failure can be painful. But it doesn’t define you. It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with and learned from.”

People always thought “that’s “just the way she has always been, it’s her personality”. I haven’t always thought this way and I actively decide to adopt this mindset every single day. According to research “the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.”

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“Mindset: Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential” by Dr. Carol Dweck

“Mindset” by Dr. Carol Dweck perfectly sums up my thoughts on this topic and reading the book confronted me with myself in a way I haven’t done before. I previously thought I ONLY had a growth mindset, but I discovered that especially in an aspect I struggle with a lot in my life I had a fixed one.

It made me think: “How the hell do people who mostly have a fixed mindset even get through life? These people can change, and they need to change – not because they’re inherently bad, but because WE COULD ALL DO SO MUCH BETTER!” 

Let me repeat: We can all do so much better. This is not only a matter of believing in yourself. It’s a matter of investing in yourself and others. A matter of taking a huge amount of effort even for things that don’t come to you naturally. Things you thought you weren’t talented at. Partners and relationships that you don’t work on because you think “it’s either meant to be or not”. Students you thought were “not smart.” – you know, the one that is “simply bad at maths.”

I don’t believe you’re “bad” at something and can’t change that. I think you’re obligated to change and grow. Everyone is born with a growth mindset. Otherwise, we would try to learn to walk and as soon as we fall we would continue to crawl for the rest of our lives cause we would think “we’re bad at walking.”

I do believe in talent, but I know that even talent needs work and improvement. Talented and successful people fail. But they start to love failure cause they need to find another path to success. They create problems just to overcome them. And that is how you learn and evolve. That is how you accel. People with a growth mindset seek challenges. There is no “if I had done this …. I would now be ….”.

If you approach every challenge, obstacle, everything NEW (that can be a job, a task, a person you encounter, a situation, a relationship, anything!!) with the mindset that you don’t have fixed abilities or that you are (or the other person is) “a certain kind of person” – then you can do and learn absolutely everything you want.

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I strongly recommend reading “Mindset: changing the way you think to fulfil your potential” by psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, because it will help you understand yourself, your childhood, your family, your teachers, coaches or students. If you live in the area, I am happy to lend you my copy of the book!

Today I challenge you to grow, to not limit yourself or what you think you can do or what others tell you that you can do. Don’t let fear get in the way. It is your duty to fail, learn, invest, work hard and fulfil your potential. And literally, no one knows what that really can be. You owe it to yourself.

Carmen