Attitude vs. Intelligence: Finding the Key to Success

by Amy Steinberg Published Jul 17, 2018 Last updated Jul 17, 2018

Growing up, we were taught that intelligence is a key element in unlocking potential. If we were smart enough, we would be able to accomplish anything! As it turns out, however, recent research performed at Stanford has uncovered a new perspective on the true key to success. According to the study, your attitude is far more important than your intelligence.

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset: The Difference

Psychologist Carol Dweck has established the key attitude difference that makes the biggest impact on whether or not individuals are successful. According to Dweck, everyone has either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Those with a fixed mindset want to look smart, but they aren’t willing to embrace the growth necessary to achieve true intelligence. They tend to avoid challenges, give up quickly when they’re faced with problems beyond their usual scope, and ignore negative feedback as they assume that it simply couldn’t apply to them. Individuals with a growth mindset, on the other hand, are eager to learn more and improve their outcomes. They’ll dig in and put in that extra effort to excel, even when it appears that their challenges are growing. With a growth mindset, people tend to see challenges and obstacles as things that simply need to be overcome, rather than insurmountable roadblocks. As it turns out, this simple shift in perspective can create transforming differences in what many people are able to accomplish.

Why a Growth Mindset Matters

With a fixed mindset, many people are stuck in their ways and unwilling to take the steps necessary to improve. They’ll likely remain at the same job, take part in the same hobbies, and stay the same areas day after day without seeing substantial improvement–and their desire to look smart may be more important to them than actually accomplishing anything. With a growth mindset, on the other hand, it’s possible to transform the way the world appears. Consider these key factors.

With a growth mindset, learning is ongoing. Individuals with growth mindsets are willing to ask questions, seek out information they don’t know, and try new things. They aren’t afraid that others will think less of them for not knowing the answers because they’re taking the steps necessary to get out there and learn new things.

Individuals with a growth mindset can take constructive criticism. 29% of people surveyed by PsychTests, for example, firmly believe that when others offer criticism, they’re doing it to hurt them, not to help them make necessary improvements or avoid uncomfortable consequences. With this type of attitude, it’s little wonder that many people struggle to make the necessary improvements, whether at work or in their personal lives. Individuals with a growth mindset, on the other hand, are willing and able to dive in and make adjustments as a result of constructive criticism, which in turn can help transform their performance at work and help them lead happier, more fulfilling lives.

A growth mindset makes it easier to take obstacles in stride. It would be nice if life was always smooth sailing, but most people will eventually face obstacles on their road to success. From missing out on a key promotion or opportunity to struggling with breaking into a specific field, growth-minded individuals view obstacles as a necessary–if not necessarily enjoyable–part of the process. They don’t get frustrated by a lack of feedback, either: while 69% of individuals feel that they will work harder if they’re given appropriate feedback and recognition, growth-minded individuals simply view a lack of recognition as one more step they have to overcome.

A growth mindset doesn’t stop trying. No feedback? No problem. Lack of resources? A growth-minded individual will find another way to accomplish their goals. Growth-minded individuals don’t stop putting forth effort just because they aren’t getting the results that they really want. Instead, they dig in a little deeper, try a little harder, and ultimately reap the rewards of that increased effort.

Growth-minded individuals move toward challenges, not away from them. The old truism remains true in this case, too: you aren’t going to achieve results if you aren’t willing to take on challenges. For growth-minded individuals, challenges are well worth undertaking–and they’re willing to put forth that extra effort, even if they aren’t sure how things will turn out.

Becoming a Growth-Minded Individual

If you’ve been struggling with a fixed mindset, it’s not too late to break the mold and start reaping the benefits of a growth mindset. Try some of these key strategies to help improve your overall chances of success and transform your mindset permanently.

Take on a new challenge. Look for ways to challenge yourself on a regular basis. Take up a new sport, try out a new skill, or look for ways to take on new roles at work. You’ll be surprised by the results, especially as this pattern becomes your new normal: in many cases, you’ll be able to accomplish more than you thought possible!

Ask questions. Set aside the idea that other people will perceive you as being “stupid” just because you don’t know an answer. Instead, ask questions! Seek out learning. Learn how to do new things on a regular basis. It will help keep your brain sharp and you moving toward your overall goals.

Take a moment to think before responding to criticism. Consider why the critique was offered and who was offering it. While you don’t always have to take criticism to heart, in many cases, listening to other people can help you make key changes that will ultimately lead to improvement. Then, try making a few changes. Try someone else’s advice on for size. You don’t have to follow every piece of advice you receive, but learning how to evaluate it can make it easier for you to reach all of your goals. Incorporating an outside perspective never hurts!

Taking on the world with a growth mindset can transform your life. Doors open more regularly for growth-minded individuals–and as you grow, you’ll find that you’re less likely to mind the challenges that stand in your way. If you want to improve your odds of success, start with your attitude. The results might just be beyond your wildest dreams.