The One Thing That Makes the Difference between Success and Failure

Through her work as a psychologist at Stanford University, Carol Dweck has been able to identify the one thing that makes the difference between success and failure. In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, she says there are two mindsets you can have in this world, and the one you choose will make all the difference.

  • Learning: Growth-mindsetters view every day and experience as a learning opportunity, not a stage to prove themselves.
  • Effort: Growth-mindsetters believe they can change anything if enough effort is put in.
  • Passion: Growth-mindsetters have passion for the things that they devote their effort to.
  • Process: Growth-mindsetters master the processes that put them on the path to success.
  • Talent: Fixed-mindsetters believe that accomplishment comes through talent.
  • Judgment: Fixed-mindsetters believe that each situation is a stage for judgment.
  • Fragile: Fixed-mindsetters are fragile if that judgment is negative.
  • Looking good: Fixed-mindsetters are more interested in looking good than in learning and growing.

There are many ways to divide the world. Benjamin Barber – an eminent sociologist – says,

“I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures, those who make it or those who don’t. I divide the world into learners and non-learners.”

This is at the heart of Dweck’s argument. The learners believe that they have the ability to change, and set about learning what they need to do in order to make the change a reality. The non-learners, on the other hand, are quite clear about the fact that “things are the way they are” and that there’s no sense in trying to change them.

There are things that you as a leader can do to help create this mindset in the workplace. The most powerful thing you can do in this situation is always ask what a person is learning. Don’t focus on the success or failure of their work directly, but focus on what they learned through the experience. Fixed mindset people have trouble thinking this way, because to them, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about winning and losing – and looking good or not. However, you should make it clear to them that the only way they will achieve the success they are looking for is by learning. If they want that bonus, raise or promotion, they’ll earn it by proving that they are learning in growing. Of course, this takes more time and effort on your part. You can’t focus only on the numbers and results – you have to focus on the process in how they get there. It’s hard work, but to have a team full of growth-mindset people is the only way to achieve long-term success.

As you go off into your day now, ask yourself the question – which mindset do you choose?