Whenever you struggle to achieve a particular outcome, especially in cases where you seem to repeat the same errors over and over, it might be worth your time to consider the 'Mindset Formula'. This looks at how the mindsets we adopt can influence how we frame a situation. This framing impacts our motivations and the goals we set, influencing the decisions we make and ultimately determines what we are able to achieve.
What is a Mindset?
A mind-set, as it was often presented in the early 1900’s reflected how experience can influence attitudes. For example, a 1930 study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, suggested that children had either a rural or urban "set of mind". Mind was the mental aspect, while "set" meant to be established, rooted, or ingrained. Over several decades, mind-set became mindset, with a modern definition being a group of established attitudes or beliefs that impact how we assess or frame a situation. This means that two people can be looking at the same picture, yet draw different conclusions.
The Importance of Mindset
Understanding how mindsets work can help you achieve better results in less time. To this end, there is a formula you can follow. When a mindset is aligned with the outcomes you are wanting to achieve, you will find motivation, set the appropriate goals, and make better decisions. On the other hand, if the mindset you adopt is misaligned with what you are trying to achieve, the ultimate outcome will be other than what you want. This means the extent to which we succeed or fail to achieve a specific outcome can be rooted in the mindset we have adopted.
An Example: A Fixed vs. Growth Mindset
While there are many different mindsets, the spectrum of either a fixed or growth mindset has been well researched. This provides a good example for discussion. Based on the research of Carol Dweck and her colleagues, they have established a number of beliefs that impact how we learn. In other words, in situations/frames that are related to education or training, they have found we tend to either adopt the mindset that intelligence or talent is innate, i.e. fixed, or we adopt a growth mindset, believing that with effort talent can be cultivated or improved.
Using this research and following the 'Mindset Formula', what Dweck has found is that when a student adopts more of a fixed mindset, they are motivated to avoid challenges. They set goals that reinforce the talents they already have, while avoiding areas where they may need to improve. They make safe decisions and the outcomes they achieve reinforce that intelligence is fixed. On the other hand, students that adopt more of a growth mindset tend to seek out challenges, solicit feedback, and persist much longer in the face of difficulties. Students with a growth mindset set more difficult goals, make decisions that involve more risk, and therefore the outcomes are wider in range, from wonderful failures to amazing success.
The main takeaway here is that if you are struggling to achieve a particular outcome, it might be helpful to reverse the formula and trace it back to the mindset you have adopted. Instead of it being a result of a bad decision or lack of motivation, the fundamental reason for failing to achieve the outcomes you want might be related to holding a mindset that is not aligned or supportive of what you are trying to accomplish.
Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House Digital, Inc..
Shales, J. M. (1930). A study of mind-set in rural and city school children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 21(4), 246–258.
Richard Feenstra is an educational psychologist, with a focus on judgment and decision making.
Bobby Hoffman is the author of "Hack Your Motivation" and a professor of educational psychology at the University of Central Florida.