Effort matters more than Ability


As I surf the world wide web this morning, I came across an article from Mr Daniel Wong on a concept he picked up from Dr Carol Dweck, a world-renowned researcher at the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Dr. Dweck’s research has centered around the themes of human motivation and development. She’s come up with a theory of the fixed vs. growth mindset, which has been proven by numerous studies. This theory predicts who will be successful over the long term and who won’t and that “Effort matters more than Ability”.

I am greatly inspired by this theory and have presented a summary of it below:

•People with a fixed mindset generally believe that their skills and abilities are fixed and won’t improve much, even with practice.
•Fixed mindsetters focus on the end result more than the process of development.
•Fixed mindsetters often focus on factors that are beyond their control, e.g. bad luck, unfortunate circumstances, unkind bosses, bad parents.
•In contrast, growth mindsetters generally believe that no matter what their skill or ability level now, they can improve with effort.
•Growth mindsetters focus on the process and the journey, instead of merely being concerned about the outcome.
•Growth mindsetters focus on factors that are within their control, e.g. effort, attitude, choices.

Dr. Dweck has observed that one of the things that’s characteristic of growth mindsetters is that they frequently use the word “yet.”

Fixed mindsetters think or say things like:
•“I’m not good at making new friends.”
•“I’m not disciplined.”
•“I’m not an analytical thinker.”
•“I don’t have many leadership qualities.”
•“I can’t cook.”

On the other hand, growth mindsetters simply tag on the word “yet” at the end of those sentences:
•“I’m not good at making new friends yet.”
•“I’m not disciplined yet.”
•“I’m not an analytical thinker yet.”
•“I don’t have many leadership qualities yet.”
•“I can’t cook yet.”

It’s a simple word that represents a fundamental shift in mindset.

Using the word “yet” reminds us that we’re not perfect, that we’re a work-in-progress. Of course, we’ll need to choose which areas we want to focus on and excel at, but we shouldn’t write ourselves off as being bad at something before we’ve even given it a shot.

It’s not uncommon for many students with the “fixed mindset” to conclud that they’re bad at math, bad at science, bad at relationships, bad at life. Worse still, they’ve decided that things will never change, so they subconsciously behave in ways to prove themselves right.

Mr Daniel Wong, for one has identified this theory through his fear of public speaking since he was a teenager. Given that he is today a successful public speaker who has spoken to thousands of people in various countries, I has proclaimed himself to have benefitted from Dr Dweck’s theory.

Mr Daniel Wong has used his personal experience in school on his own reluctance to speak in public such as talks, asking questions in class, or sharing his views with others to further illustrate the point. To him, being forced to give a class presentation was the worst thing that could happen in life. Just the thought of speaking in public practically immobilized him until he was 21 years old.

One day, he decided that he just couldn’t let this irrational fear get the better of him any longer. He finally decided to change his thinking from “I’m not confident at public speaking” to “I’m not confident at public speaking yet.” He set his target to become a confident public speaker and after saying yes again and again to speaking opportunities, he eventually realized that he enjoyed public speaking and never looked back since.

I was very impressed with how this simple concept can spur one to break the psychological barrier to achieve something that one set his mind to do so with sheer effort and determination to succeed.

What about you? Are there skills or competencies that you’ve already decided you’ll never be able to acquire, regardless of how hard you try? And are you willing to make it a daily habit to become a “yet” man/woman?

Remember: Life is a journey of learning, loving, growing and contributing. We’re not there. Yet. 🙂


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