Adopting this simple habit will make you insanely successful and confident, according to science

Elle Kaplan | Medium
Eyes Wide Open | Getty Images

Research suggests there's one remarkably simple behavior that separates ultra-successful people from the rest.

How many times do we look at one aspect of our lives or another — be it weight, stress, or finances — and wish it were different? Or that we knew how to change it?

Carol Dweck, a researcher from Stanford University, spent over 3 decades trying to solve this common problem, and get to the root of why some people are able to figure out and overcome new challenges, while others failed.

The answer was quite simple, actually. She found that there were two different approaches to life and resulting behaviors that separated the ultra-successful from the rest.

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These two habits are known as the "fixed mindset" and "growth mindset":

A "fixed mindset" assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can't change in any meaningful way.

They think success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.

A "growth mindset," on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of un-intelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.

These two very different approaches, Dweck's research found, are at the root of whether some people become the best in their field while others languish.

Why you should use this behavior

Individuals who commit to a growth mindset have been found to accomplish more (both professionally and personally) than those with a fixed mindset. Rather than wasting time worrying about how intelligent they come across to others, they are putting their energy into developing and learning the skills necessary to accomplish the task at hand.

Additionally, organizations that encourage and embody a growth mindset report an overwhelmingly more positive feeling about the workplace (in addition to more profits) when compared to those with a fixed mindset, according to Harvard Business Review.

How it works to build your confidence and success

You can accomplish nearly anything with a growth mindset, because you are more willing to accept both challenges and setbacks with the understanding that you may need to try several times to reach success. A person with a fixed mindset, on the other hand, is resistant to challenges and completely rejects failure by moving on to a new task, thus, never achieving the original goal.

For example, a person with a fixed mindset is likely to think, "I'm a naturally talented writer, so it's likely that I will achieve great things in the writing field." While, at first, there may seem to be nothing wrong with this mindset, it only applies to one niche.

This same person's fixed mindset will also think, "I'm not naturally talented at public speaking, so it's unlikely that I will achieve great things in public speaking."

But let's think about this for a minute: when is the last time you or the others took any time to actually try public speaking?

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My guess — it was probably in your early years of college (when truth be told, you probably weren't very interested in it). So I challenge you: try a public speaking course or read some articles on it, and you will be surprised at how much you can accomplish if you simply attempt it.

How you can hack your brain

As with most other things in life, if we do not already have a growth mindset, we have the ability (over time), to train our brains to think this way.

These easy-to-implement brain hacks may just be the thing you need to actually accomplish your goals and kickstart good habits:

Start thinking (and truly believing) that life is a compilation of mini experiments

Through our education system we are taught that our successes are very black and white; pass or fail. If we fail, there is often not a second chance or we have to go through a major setback (waiting to repeat the ninth grade again and experience utter humiliation).

In a 2014 Ted Talk, Carol Dweck discusses the power of "not yet" — she describes a high school in Chicago that gives students who did not achieve a passing mark in a course the grade "not yet," rather than a fail. This sends a message to students that they are on a learning curve and on a path to success instead of receiving the message of "full-stop — you are going nowhere."

If we start thinking about our lives this way, we have a much greater potential of eventually reaching our goals even when it doesn't happen the first time around. If you apply for a job and do not receive an offer it does not mean you are a failure and will be jobless forever — it probably wasn't the right fit, go for the next one!

Aim for improvement, not perfection

"The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it's not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives." — Carol Dweck

Once you convince yourself to dig for those hidden talents that you have been suppressing for all these years because you thought you weren't good at them, aim for improvement, not perfection.

If your PE teacher in middle school told you that you weren't fit for running, do not aim to be an Olympic athlete — rather, start with one mile and eventually work your way up to a 5K in the Spring. If you haven't been to the gym in six months, do not go straight for the six-pack; aim for a low calorie lunch instead of pizza and take a walk 3–4 times a week (you are much more likely to achieve this and will develop a positive outlook on exercise in the long-run).

Remember, the point is not to be the best at everything you do — enjoy the ride and take note of the people you are meeting, the learning you are doing and the personal growth that is happening along the way.

Step outside your comfort zone

Whether it's going to that job interview or just saying "hi" to someone you want to meet, make an effort to do it daily, knowing that it will be a step towards conquering your fears and growing.

As Sheryl Sandberg put it, "we hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in."

I am not saying this is easy, and its certainly easier to write about than to put into action, but it's the only way to make changes on a daily basis that affect our lives for the better. You may also fail at first, but if you stay in the "scary" place of optimal anxiety, you may find yourself taking important risks that you never thought you would do. Truly successful people believe in the power of this fear, and they never stay in the comfort zone.

Remember, the point is not to be the best at everything you do — enjoy the ride and take note of the people you are meeting, the learning you are doing and the personal growth that is happening along the way.

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This article originally appeared on Medium.

Adopt these habits in your 20s to be more successful in your 30s
Adopt these habits in your 20s to be more successful in your 30s