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Unlocking Your Potential: Strategies for Developing a Winning Mindset

Do you think intelligence is inborn and cannot be worked upon?

There is evidence to suggest that intelligence is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Some research suggests that genetics may play a role in determining an individual's general cognitive ability, but it is not the sole determining factor. Environmental factors, such as a person's experiences, education, and upbringing, can also have an impact on intelligence.

While genetics may influence an individual's cognitive abilities to some extent, it is important to note that intelligence is not fixed and can be improved over time through learning and effort. This is known as the concept of plasticity, which refers to the brain's ability to change and adapt throughout an individual's life in response to new experiences and learning.

Therefore, while genetics may be a factor in intelligence, it is not the only factor and intelligence is not necessarily fixed. It is possible for individuals to work on developing their cognitive abilities and increase their intelligence through learning and effort.

Do you think a ‘natural’ will always perform better than a hard worker?

Think again!

Your mindset is a set of beliefs that shapes how you make sense of the world and yourself. It influences how you think, feel, and behave in any given situation.

“Becoming is better than being” – Carol Dweck, American Psychologist

It is not necessarily accurate to say that a "natural" will always perform better than a hard worker. While some individuals may have a natural aptitude or talent for a particular activity or task, this does not necessarily mean that they will always outperform those who may not have a natural aptitude but are willing to work hard and put in effort to improve.

In many cases, hard work and effort can be more important factors in achieving success than natural talent or ability. This is because hard work and effort can often lead to improvement and progress, even if an individual does not have a natural aptitude for a particular activity or task.

It is also important to note that the concept of "natural" ability or talent is not always clear-cut. Many skills and abilities can be developed and improved upon over time through learning and effort, and an individual's level of talent or aptitude may change and evolve over the course of their life.

Therefore, it is not accurate to say that a "natural" will always perform better than a hard worker. Hard work and effort can be key factors in achieving success, regardless of an individual's natural aptitude or talent.

What does “mindset” mean?

Every time we are faced with challenges or new tasks, for instance, an exam, a new project, a relationship problem, or a job interview, we are often advised on the importance of ‘state of mind’ or ‘positive thinking’ while approaching the said event. This may sound cliché. However, this isn't just a piece of hackneyed advice or a “trick” that doesn't have an impact but on the contrary, research shows that the mindset can change everything.

In psychology, a mindset refers to an individual's way of thinking and approach to the world around them. It can influence how they interpret and respond to events and experiences, and can have a significant impact on their behavior, motivation, and overall well-being.

There are two main types of mindset: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is characterized by the belief that one's abilities, intelligence, and characteristics are fixed and cannot be changed. This type of mindset can lead to a lack of motivation and effort, as well as a reluctance to try new things or take on challenges.

On the other hand, a growth mindset is characterized by the belief that one's abilities, intelligence, and characteristics can be developed and improved over time through effort and learning. This type of mindset is associated with increased motivation, effort, and resilience, as well as a greater willingness to take on challenges and embrace new learning opportunities.

Having a growth mindset can be beneficial for individuals in many areas of life, including personal development, academic achievement, and career success.

Fixed mindset and Growth (developing) mindset

The objectives we set and the success we achieve is to a great extent determined by our ‘state of mind’. Some may argue that the state of mind does not determine everything, however, it does play an important role and also has a major impact on our desired outcomes.

If the underlying thought is that everything is settled in advance and that everyone has innate strengths or weaknesses, we end up already giving up and surrender to failure. We then think that we are definitely "not made for this", which can lead to the development of real blockages. In cases where individual experience repeated failures they automatically tend to favour resignation. This is more linked to a perception bias than to reality and one can effectively develop what is called a deterministic mentality, that is, all events are ultimately determined by causes regarded as external to the will.

Needless to say, this mentality is fundamentally flawed. Indeed, the development of any skill is based on motivation, the use of appropriate methods, and sustained effort. Only exceptional or extreme skills can be limited by physical or physiological aspects. This is the case, for example, for very high-level sports careers where, with equal training, genetic differences can create insurmountable performance gaps. It's important to have a positive mindset and to be aware that with the right mindset, motivation and effort, one can achieve their goals.

Carol Dweck, a psychologist, correctly differentiates between a "fixed" mindset and a "developing" or "growing" mindset. She describes that "while initial skills and aptitudes, interests or temperament may vary in many ways from one individual to another, each has the opportunity to change and develop through application and experience." The perception that people have of their own intelligence has a significant impact on motivation, effort, and how to approach challenges. The Dweck & Leggett model shows that a malleable view of intelligence has important cognitive, affective and behavioral consequences.

What is the fixed state of mind?

In a fixed mindset, it is believed that individuals are born with certain strengths and weaknesses that cannot be changed, no matter how hard they try to improve. As a result, people tend to avoid situations that reveal their weak points and focus only on areas where they excel. This can lead to a lack of effort to improve in areas where they already have mastery, as they believe that their skills and efficiency are already at their maximum.

Additionally, people with a fixed mindset tend to think that others' talents are innate gifts and that abilities cannot be improved through effort. Failure is seen as confirmation of these fixed beliefs rather than an opportunity to learn. However, it's important to note that the fixed mindset is not innate, it's learned through experiences and exposure to societal beliefs. This way of thinking can limit the fun and ease of learning and make obstacles seem bigger than they actually are.

It's important to recognize that a fixed mindset can limit our potential and prevent us from reaching our goals. When we adopt a fixed mindset, we tend to avoid challenges and give up easily when faced with obstacles. We also tend to avoid constructive feedback and criticism, as we may see it as an attack on our abilities rather than an opportunity to improve. Additionally, when we have a fixed mindset, we tend to focus on proving ourselves to others, rather than on learning and growth.

What is the Growth Mindset?

It is just quite the reverse that favoring an incremental vision or development of intelligence and skills always has positive consequences. The belief that all abilities and talents can be developed, cultivated and practiced, makes it possible not to be afraid of failure. Here we do not compare ourselves to others, but to our previous performances. People who believe that their skills can be developed through work, appropriate strategies, and the advice and feedback of others have a development mindset. They generally tend to accomplish more than those with a fixed mindset.

A growth mindset is the belief that one's intelligence, talent, and abilities can be developed and improved through effort and hard work. With this mindset, obstacles are viewed as opportunities for growth and learning, and mistakes are seen as a chance to learn and improve. It's important to note that people with a growth mindset don't necessarily have more talents, resources, or opportunities than others, but they are able to utilize them more effectively. This mindset is crucial for personal development, as it allows individuals to overcome challenges and reach their full potential.

All this is not to say that there are no natural differences in terms of talent or opportunity between individuals. It is simply a question of underlining the fact that we use what we have rather well or badly according to state of minds and attitudes which condition our behaviors. Of course, the environment can be a facilitator or a blocker, whatever the state of mind adopted. However, with a growing mindset we will feel more empowered to respond to that environment, rather than blaming it for our lack of effort or understanding. Finally, we should not confuse the development mindset with being flexible, open-minded or positive. If we consider these qualities as something innate, we are always in a fixed state of mind!

A binary vision?

A binary vision refers to a way of thinking that divides things into two distinct and opposing categories, often with little room for nuance or complexity. It's a type of black and white thinking, where things are seen as either/or, good or bad, right or wrong. It can limit one's perspective and understanding of complex issues, as it doesn't allow for the recognition of multiple perspectives or the presence of gray areas. This type of thinking is also called dichotomous thinking or all-or-nothing thinking.

These two visions are however never present in a pure way for an individual in any situation. Depending on the area, the mood and our experiences, we oscillate between these two extremes. The goal being, of course, rather to tip the balance towards the spirit of development in order to be in a positive and beneficial dynamic for the achievement of our objectives.

We find in roughly equal proportions the predominance of one or the other of these two visions in the population. (Dweck, 2017). However, this predominance (one way or the other) is rarely total and perfect. It means that while the state of mind is something that can change with experience and with work. Even if you think you are inefficient for a task, nothing prevents you from developing skills in this area. The changes will then come primarily from motivation and the application of appropriate methods.

Mindset in education

The education system which distributes pupils by age group and which prescribes identical school tasks for all leads to a stable classification of aptitudes. It also tends to reinforce the fixed mindset at the expense of a developing mindset. Students' self-assessments then become similar to those of teachers and their peers, with all that this can entail as an integration of failure or success.

Congratulating students for their work is important, but it's crucial to be mindful of what you emphasize: effort or results. When students are praised only for their intelligence and achievement, they may develop a fixed mindset, and are more likely to cheat or lie on exams to maintain a positive image of themselves.

To promote a growth mindset, emphasis should be placed on processes and progress rather than on a one-time outcome. Mistakes are seen as a valuable part of the learning process and students are encouraged to experiment and test things, even if it doesn't work out. The important thing is to learn from mistakes and use that learning to progress. However, it's important to note that the growth mindset is not just about rewarding effort. Results are also important. Constant efforts that lead to no progress can be disheartening and is not beneficial in the long run. In the growth mindset, we take into account both risk-taking and effort, and not just a specific outcome.

Change state of mind

Changing your mind isn't necessarily easy. It can be a bit like trying to change which side you are crossing your arms. At first, it seems curious and uncomfortable. However, by sufficiently alternating the two positions one ends up getting used to the one that one was not used to using.

The same goes for the state of mind. To start changing, we must already be aware of our state of mind for a particular area. Reflection, but also meditation, can facilitate this awareness. We can then begin to spot thoughts related to the fixed state of mind when confronted with certain situations, as well as the internal dialogue that follows, the fact of focusing only on the results, etc. With the attention that we pay to all these aspects, we can reframe things to progress towards a more constructive state of mind.

Carol Dweck , researcher specializing in the subject, explains how to change your mindset in 4 steps(Dweck, 2017) :

  1. Learn to hear the voice of your fixed state of mind

  2. Realize that we have a choice

  3. Respond with an internal voice characteristic of a growth mindset

  4. Act according to the growth mindset


The state of mind plays a crucial role in determining our level of success and the opportunities we are able to seize. A fixed mindset can be limiting and can prevent personal growth, while a growth mindset is geared towards continuous improvement and increased capabilities. It's important to remember that our abilities are not fixed and with the right approach, we can learn and progress in any area of our lives, even if it initially seems challenging or out of our reach. So, next time you encounter a difficult task or feel like you're not "cut out" for something, don't give up. Keep an open mind and utilize the right techniques to improve and evolve.


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