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Growth vs Fixed Mindsets

Hi everyone! This week I want to talk about fixed versus growth mindsets. If you’re not familiar, basically a fixed mindset is where people believe that they are either “smart” or not, “athletic” or not, “good at math” or not, and that these things are just genetic. You’re either born good at something or you’re not. A growth mindset encompasses the idea that people might start better or worst at something but everyone is able to improve if put in the work and try to improve. This might not seem like a big difference but this can end up having a drastic impact on your attitude and mentality in many areas of life.
For example, imagine you’re in class and something doesn’t make sense to you. The way the professor explained a concept just isn’t clicking. A standard response is “Oh, I wouldn’t want people thinking that I’m stupid so I won’t raise my hand and ask the professor a question.” This comes from a fixed mindset, where people believe that being smart or not is an inherent quality and that if you ask a question, you are showing everyone that you’re not one of those smart people. On the other hand, someone with a growth mindset would think, “I don’t understand this now, but that’s ok, I’ll ask a question and with time it’ll make sense to me.”
This idea that people are smart or not seems to -on the surface- make sense but if we dig deeper it’ll be obvious that it’s actually just an illusion. Nobody understands everything they come across the first time. Nobody is gifted in all subjects. Everyone has their own strengths and things that they will naturally pick up on quicker. This seems obvious but it completely goes against what many people believe: that there are smart and dumb people in the world.
It’s actually been proven multiple times that people with a growth mindset are much more likely to succeed and do better compared to those with a fixed mindset. If you think about it, that makes sense. If you have a fixed mindset that will seep into multiple areas of your life. If you’re just a person who’s bad at math, why should you study? If you don’t understand something, it must mean you’re dumb so that subject just isn’t for you. It’s a completely reasonable response to the fixed mindset paradigm. If that were the way the world works, it would completely make sense to not put effort into something that won’t yield any results. The problem is that the world doesn’t work like that, and having this false belief can be detrimental.
So you might be asking, “Ok you’ve convinced me but how can I develop a growth mindset?” Well, it doesn’t take a magic wand or buying a 300 dollar course, it just takes conscious intervention. If you’ve developed this mentality your whole life, it won’t be easy to change it and it probably won’t happen overnight. However, whenever one of these thoughts pop up, you need to consciously take note of it without judgment and try to see things through a different lens. It probably won’t be easy and you might not believe it at first, but this is a very important skill to develop. Then, hopefully, after a while, it will become natural. Another element of this is not worrying too much about what people think of you, however, that’s a bit out of the scope of this email.
The next time you’re in class and you don’t understand something, remember that there are probably many other people in the class who also don’t understand, but just like you, are too scared to look dumb in front of their peers. I recommend you take the leap, and risk looking stupid in order to actually develop the knowledge to be a “smart” person. Would you rather people not think you’re stupid, but not understand your lectures, or risk looking stupid in order to actually understand the material? In reality, what’ll probably happen is that people won’t think you’re stupid and will actually appreciate you asking a question they had as well. There’s something called the spotlight effect, where people believe that others are judging and thinking about them more than they actually are. If someone else asks the question that’s plaguing you, would you judge them? Food for thought. See you next week.

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Hi Everyone, I'm Shalev a 3rd year medical student studying in Italy. This is my email newsletter, every Friday I'll send out an email with a new idea I had, something I learned, or something I found interesting. I'd love to hear back from you if you have any thoughts about something I wrote.

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