Determination 1st, smarts 2nd: Why determination trumps brains in getting ahead

Posted on 12-23-2014 by
Tags: career advancement , Upgrading Your Skills

The mind and the behind the scenes actions that go into mundane actions can be very intriguing. Ask yourself this:

If you are constantly told you’re a genius, how would it affect your work ethic?

Carol S. Dweck, a professor at Stanford University and leading expert in motivation, studies the effects that praise has over mindset. Her and her team experimented on 400 fifth graders with various backgrounds from different parts of the United States. According to an article by FastCompany collected the following results after each of the following tests:

Putting “Smarts vs. Grit” To the Test

Participants in this study were given puzzles that tested their IQ. After they were finished they were praised for either their intelligence or effort. Those who were praised for their intelligence were told "You got x number correct. That's a really good score. You must be very smart at this." While those who were praised for effort were told “You must have worked really hard.”

The students were then given the choice to take another test that was just as easy as the first one or one that was harder than the first test. The study found that the majority of the intelligence-praised students chose to take the easier test while 90% of the effort-praised students chose to take the harder test.

After the second tests the students had to take an even harder test. At this point, the researchers found that the “smart kids” no longer enjoyed what they were doing and didn’t have any interest in practicing the problem sets. This, however, was not the case for the effort-praised kids. Those who were praised for their effort believed hard work was all they needed. These kids ended up enjoying the difficult puzzles, even if they couldn’t always solve them.

Researchers concluded that the intelligence-praised students believed their skills were something they either “had or didn’t have.” On the other end of the spectrum, those who were praised for their effort believed their intelligence was something they could control and as a result, could improve through hard work.

Growth Mindset = More Success

Another noted Dweck address was how a particular mindset can affect you at any age. For example, someone with a fixed mindset believes that traits like intelligence are fixed traits. If those people are told they are intelligent they will want to continue to be perceived as so and as a result they see failure as a personal attack of their intelligence. So, as a result they don’t take risks as much and when they do they often don’t recover as easily when things go wrong.

On the other hand, those who have a growth mindset believe the harder they try, the more they’ll improve. These people don’t fear taking risks. According to Dweck, these people have a greater chance of success in life.

Ultimately, the lesson we should take from Dweck’s research is this: Smarts can only take you so far. The rest of the way is paved by grit and determination.

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