I’ve mentioned a book called “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” by Carol S. Dweck, once or twice before. This is an important book, and you should read it or reread it. “Mindset” discusses two ways of looking at the world and yourself. The “fixed mindset” says that you are the way you are, and the “growth mindset” suggests that each of us is constantly in a process of growth and change. Ms. Dweck argues very persuasively that adopting a growth mindset is a better way to live.
If you use a fixed mindset, you believe that you are good or bad at certain things. Sometimes that seems positive – Maybe your parents congratulate you on getting an “A” by telling you how smart you are.
It’s great to have confidence, but you might fall into the trap of thinking that everything will be just as easy. You can become lazy about studying and improving your skills. And then you fail at something, and all your confidence disappears. If you succeeded because you were smart, then you must have failed because you’re stupid. So you give up, work even less, and keep failing.
With a “growth mindset”, you see yourself as in a constant state of change. If you succeed at a task, it isn’t because you were destined to succeed. It’s because you prepared yourself by working hard, studying, and practicing for that task. If you fail, it means you need to work harder, study more, and prepare better.
People who take a growth mindset don’t think of themselves as geniuses or natural athletes. They just know that they can do amazing things if they work hard enough. It’s a much more resilient attitude, and most successful people believe in a growth mindset.
Not So Smart
For years, I had people call me a genius. The label has always felt wrong to me. I have always known there are lots of people smarter than me, more skilled than me at any particular subject, and so on. I used to describe my work as “sporadically brilliant”, and have always been frustrated that I can’t come up with great ideas all the time or with any degree of consistency.
That’s because what I really have isn’t genius. It’s the willingness to keep trying when I fail, to try new things, and to let my imagination wander until an idea comes to me. My wife calls me “easily distracted” and I’m often accused of daydreaming, being indecisive, and lacking focus. The strange thing is that all those accusations are correct, and that that flaw is my greatest strength!
When my mind wanders, it’s because the “obvious” answer to a question doesn’t feel quite right. Game design takes both organized, careful work and the leaps of imagination that come letting my mind roam. If I was always focused and “in the moment”, I’d be doing some other work.
Being creative is about taking risks and often getting them wrong. That means trying new ideas, getting many of them wrong, then trying some more.
Growth Is Life
If you want more from your life, adopt the growth mindset. Don’t allow yourself to become too satisfied with the status quo – Keep working to get better and to learn new things. At the same time, try not to beat yourself up over mistakes or failures – Treat each one as a Valuable Learning Experience, and another opportunity to get better and learn new things.
There is always more out there; keep looking for it!