Advice: Growth is Possible

There’s a famous phrase by Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”

10457103664_1fedd54039I have to admit that this phrase annoys me. Not every thought is reasonable. Some people are deluded. Believing that I can grow feathers and fly like a bird is not enough to make it possible.

That said, research about “mindset” is showing that within reasonable limits, the quote is right. Our attitudes really do shape what we can achieve. A “fixed mindset” often holds people back, and a “growth mindset” tends to bring people more success.

People who have a fixed mindset believe that characteristics they were born with are most important. They see things like talent and intelligence as unchanging. Failure feels like a deep, personal tragedy. They tend to say things like, “I’m not good at that,” or “I can’t use technology” to explain why they won’t attempt something.

People who have a growth mindset believe that they can learn. They see intelligence and skills as things they can improve. They tend to try new things. They are more relaxed about failure (see my post about the benefits of relaxing) because it’s not about them; it’s about the situation and their skills. They see hard work as more important than whatever talents they were born with.

In general, the people who are most successful are willing to try hard again and again. But of course, everyone fails sometimes. That’s just life. The people who keep trying – who are resilient – have an advantage over the people who don’t. And a growth mindset makes it easier to be resilient.

That makes sense even without research. Who do you think is more likely to succeed:

  • The person who tries something only once, or the person who tries ten times?
  • The very intelligent person who works for one hour, or the moderately intelligent person who works for eight hours?
  • The person who erases every error, or the person who collects and analyzes her errors?
  • The person who burns every rejection letter without fully reading it, or the person who seeks out feedback, both positive and negative?

I grew up with a fixed mindset, but I’ve been working to embrace a growth mindset more. I have not completely changed my old habits, but I now have a part-time growth mindset, and it’s wonderful! It makes me feel braver and more hopeful. My growth mindset is the reason that this blog exists. It might not be perfect now or ever, and I might get negative comments. But I’d like to work on it, improve my skills, and see what happens. Even if it’s a failure, I’m learning, and that’s a win.

What about you? What is your mindset?

Further Reading

Never Too Late – an article about supporting professional adults in developing a growth mindset.

Mindset – a popular book about this topic in parenting, business, school and relationships.


Listen to Emily read this post. (I recorded using It will open in a new tab.)

Photo CreditJ. Triepke on Flickr



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