Before explaining what a positive attitude and fixed attitude are, think for a moment and answer this question:
Are leaders, entrepreneurs, artists born or made?
What do you think? Did we come into the world with fixed, immovable abilities and talents, or can we develop them through effort and learning?
Don’t think it’s a theoretical question. Your answer to these questions can determine the rest of your life.
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right” —Henry Ford
Our personality, beliefs and our attitudes are shaped by many external factors in our first 25 years: the opinions and rules of our parents, the educational system, the relationship with our peers and friends …
All this is combined with our experiences and with our genetic base to produce a particular vision of the world and ourselves.
In short: you reach adulthood with a perception of yourself that is primarily inherited from others.
And this perception radically expands or limits your possibilities in life.
Positive attitude or growth vs. fixed attitude
In recent years, the scientific literature on motivation has coined the term mindset (we can translate it as “mentality” or “attitude“) to refer to how the beliefs we have about ourselves determine the results we obtain.
In 2006 professor at Stanford University Dr. Carol S. Dweck made the distinction between “positive attitude or growth” ( growth mindset ) and “fixed attitude” ( fixed mindset ) as two different ways of thinking about our personal qualities, such as intelligence or personality traits:
- someone who has a positive or growing attitude believes that through effort, they can modify their attributes and improve. In contrast, someone with a fixed mindset believes that their abilities are immovable and cannot change.
- What is interesting is not so much the distinction itself, but how each of these two different attitudes affects us in two critical aspects of success in life: the goals we set for ourselves and our concept of effort.
To the person who has a fixed attitude, the concept of effort is negative: the more you need to strive at something, the more apparent it is that you are not gifted for it, that you lack the innate skills necessary for that task.
When you think like that, effort doesn’t make sense: you believe that if you had the necessary capabilities, you wouldn’t have to make an effort.
On the other hand, for people with a positive or growing attitude, the effort is the tool through which they develop: it is what allows them to improve their abilities from the initial starting point.
On the other hand, people with a fixed attitude choose their goals based on allowing them to demonstrate their intelligence and ability before others.
Because they cannot afford failures, they often choose predictable goals and jobs, which they can master relatively quickly and where the chance for error is low.
Instead, people with a positive attitude toward their abilities allow themselves to set goals in unknown territories, where the possibility of making mistakes is more likely, and where they must learn through continuous trial and error.
Positive attitude vs. limiting beliefs
“You have to do the things you think you are not capable of doing” —Eleanor Roosevelt
In our personal development process, this distinction between positive or growth attitude and fixed attitude is an enormous help to question the limiting beliefs that we have inherited from others.
If we believe that by striving, we can improve, and we act accordingly, any other people’s judgment about how we are or what we can or cannot do loses weight.
Neuroplasticity is a scientific fact: our brain grows, regenerates, adapts to new circumstances.
Therefore, the good news is that we can change our beliefs about our abilities: it is possible to develop a positive or growth attitude, although this usually requires external influence (such as these pages, for example).
Remember what you think about your abilities determines the size of your dreams.
And the size of your dreams determines the size of your life.
Positive or growth attitude: practical applications
Studies in schools in the United States have shown that it is possible to instill in children from disadvantaged backgrounds a positive attitude about their abilities.
When they assimilate the idea that with work they can improve, they adopt a positive attitude towards risk and effort, select goals that are further from their comfort zone, and obtain better academic results.
This idea has not only been applied with spectacular results in areas such as education and sports: it has direct application in the business environment as well.
And is that organizations can also have a fixed attitude or a positive attitude, inspired by their leaders.
Leaders with a fixed attitude think that the capabilities of their teams are limited and that there are ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’ employees, talented and without him.
As a natural consequence, these managers do not believe in the learning capacity of the organization and lead in a personal way, asking others just to follow their guidelines. They surround themselves with a restricted circle of collaborators whose mission is to act as a transmission belt for their instructions.
The result is organizations where any deviation from the norm is penalized: teams are afraid of being wrong, they are leaking talent, they do not experience or take risks, and therefore they do not learn quickly enough.
Organizations can also have a fixed attitude or an attitude of growth, inspired by their leaders.
Instead, leaders with a positive or growth attitude believe that the capabilities of their organization are alive and can be developed.
They tend to foster corporate learning cultures, in which diversity is appreciated, information flows, there is scope for experimentation, and thus generates a higher level of engagement among employees.
This gives them an immense competitive advantage: because in these changing times, the future belongs to the individuals and organizations that do not stop learning.
Don’t let your inherited beliefs limit your life.
In your personal life, the fixed attitude translates into ideas like these:
- I am not good at sports.
- Technology is not my thing.
- I’m not good at meeting new people.
- I am very disorganized, and it is what there is.
- I have been told that I have done something wrong. I have no future in this work.
These ideas may be based on experience, on the opinion that others had about you years ago, or on habits that you have maintained for a long time.
Whatever their origin, these thoughts lead you to avoid new experiences in those fields and make you miss opportunities in areas of your life that could be important to you.
Instead, the positive or growth attitude consists of recognizing our weak points, not as a condemnation, but to work with them and improve through effort and learning.
What can you do?
- As we have seen, your belief regarding your abilities determines your relationship with risk and effort and therefore influences the goals you set for yourself. Being aware of this is already a first step in the right direction.
- Set yourself ambitious goals that have a deep meaning for you, and learn along the way without caring what others think.
- If you are a leader or aspire to be one, demonstrate to others every day that you have a positive attitude and believe in their ability to improve: tolerate punctual error to encourage continuous learning.
- From now on, look at failure with new eyes: it is only a learning opportunity, a “not yet” that leaves everything open to progress.
- Do what you think you are not capable of. Challenge beliefs with action. If you have been told that you are not good at something that interests you, read about it, train yourself, practice daily. You will be amazed at the result.