What is the number one key to success in life?
If you have it, sky’s the limit. If you don’t, you will struggle to find sustained success.
Although there are many factors that contribute to success in life, one in particular seems to be the prerequisite upon which all the others are built.
Build this one success factor into your life and all the other dominoes fall into place.
Hint: the answer isn’t what you think.
The Number One Key to Success in Life: Not What You Expect
Many have wondered: Why do some people experience success, even wild success… while others don’t?
Why do some people who strive toward a goal see amazing things happen in their lives… while others who are also working hard never seem to reach their potential?
Are the successful people…
- More talented?
- Work harder?
Nope, nope, nope and nope.
The key to success was dramatically revealed in ground breaking research… and has been verified by research many times since.
The Key to Success in Life: The Discovery.
Here’s the backstory on the discovery: There were a group of 7th graders in a large school in New York City who were singled out for an experiment.
You see, these students shared a similar plight—their math scores had significantly lagged behind the rest of their peers.
Since there was no surefire method to improve math scores for all children, the school tried something different. They conducted an experiment, breaking the larger group into two smaller groups.
Both groups went through an identical process. They attended workshops designed to improve the skills needed to excel in math:
- Techniques to study more effectively.
- Ways to manage their time better
- Techniques to improve their memory
It was felt that if they could help the children get better at using the tools of learning, this could make a difference.
Discovering THE Difference Maker
But, in addition to the above, there was something else taught to the second group.
This additional element was THE game changer.
While the first (control) group’s math scores continued to plummet, despite the vital skills they were being taught, the second group’s scores began to soar.
While both groups were being taught key learning skills, the second group was also being taught about a revolutionary (and at the time controversial) theory championed by Dr. Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University.
It all had to do with their perspective.
Two Radically Different Perspectives
Dr. Dweck had observed that as we grow up, especially as we enter school and start comparing ourselves with others, we begin to notice that some people are better than others at certain things.
Some are just smarter (and thus get better grades). Or, some seem to have a natural talent for certain subjects. They are good at that subject and it comes easier for them, even if in other subjects they aren’t as “gifted.”
We begin to conclude that these are fixed qualities… the cards you are dealt that you must play the rest of your life.
But, Dr. Dweck knew that was just flat wrong.
She acknowledged the natural giftings, but theorized these abilities were NOT fixed.
“The brain is like a muscle,” asserted Dr. Dweck, “the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. Every time you try hard and learn something new, your brain forms new connections that, over time, make you smarter.”
Note: Neuroscience has now verified this assertion. The term “neuroplasticity” was coined to describe the process of brain change that occurs as a result of certain efforts on our part.
Here’s what Dr. Dweck noticed about the general population: In any crowd, you have some who believe (consciously or unconsciously) in the fixed mindset (for themselves or others), while some have a growth mindset.
Which are you?
The difference in the results between these two mindsets is stunning.
The Life-Changing Perspective Leading to Success
Back to our story about the struggling 7th graders.
The experimental group began to be taught that their abilities were not fixed. Instead, they were like muscles that could grow and improve over time… as they applied effort.
The reaction from the students, and their subsequent results, were amazing.
“The students were riveted,” said Dr. Dweck. “The idea that their intellectual growth was largely in their hands surprised and fascinated them.”
Even the most disruptive students embraced this new understanding. “You mean I don’t have to be dumb?” asked a particularly unruly boy.
In the past, the boy had rarely turned in homework and put in minimal effort beforehand.
Now he worked for hours to finish an assignment early, got feedback from his teacher, revised it, and earned a B+.
Teachers noticed a marked improvement in the motivation and effort of the entire experimental group.
Overall, the students in the second experiment group who received this mindset training turned around their math achievement scores and made dramatic gains.
In contrast, the achievement of the first/control-group students, despite the workshops on study skills, continued to decline.
Was this a fluke? No. Researchers were able to replicate the results in a larger study of more students across 20 schools.
Good or Bad News: You Get What You Expect
Students in the growth mindset group discovered that if they kept working on a topic, difficult as it may be for them, they could see incremental progress and better results.
With enough time and effort, they could even achieve mastery of certain subjects.
Here’s a sobering reality about these mindsets: Both are self-fulfilling prophecies: if you believe you can grow and change and improve, and apply yourself, your brain and your abilities literally change and improve.
Conversely, if you are convinced that you and everyone else’s abilities are fixed, that there is nothing that you can do to change the outcome, you will proceed in a way that keeps things exactly where they are today.
Which perspective will you embrace today?
The Benefits of the Growth (Success) Mindset
How does exercising a growth mindset impact the outcomes of people’s lives?
Dr. Dweck’s 30+ years of research has shown that people who exercise a growth mindset:
- Perform better in school and at work
- Are more motivated and persistent
- Have lower stress toward success/failure
- Demonstrate greater confidence
- Experience lower levels of depression
The growth mindset is so vital to success because other success factors flow from it.
For example, to see success in whatever your goal is, you must increase in your proficiency and ability in that area. The growth mindset fuels improvement in skills and abilities.
Or consider another crucial component of success: perseverance, tenacity and grit. The growth mindset motivates you to work hard… and keep working hard because you are convinced that with time and effort you will make progress toward your goal.
What This Mean For You
I think the discovery and confirmation of the growth mindset is tremendous news for all who aren’t born with the highest IQ, or the most talent, or the greatest natural abilities.
For me, it is like the oxygen of hope, fueling me forward toward success.
What is (now) doesn’t have to be forever.
This mindset is the great equalizer. I may not be the smartest, fastest, or most gifted in a particular area. But, I can grow and improve in virtually ANY area of life… closing the gap with others.
In fact, in my experience many people with natural abilities tend to rest on, even coast with their abilities.
While they are coasting in place, I will get stronger… and go past them.
How about you?
Warning! Things May Not Be What You Think
There is a dynamic I must warn you about.
It is not uncommon for readers to think they have a growth mindset… but they do not.
In fact, you can often sabotage your success because you secretly have a fixed mindset.
Here’s how to know for sure whether or not you have a growth mindset.
You may be surprised at how your subconscious mind tricks you into seeing yourself one way, while it leads us down the path of failure.
This article reveals the very thoughts we have in our heads that can lead to poor results in our efforts to see success in our goals.
Don’t assume anything. Read the 3 telltale signs your mindset is holding you back.… and know for sure.
Your Turn! Leave a comment below: How would a growth mindset change the way you approach life?