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May 27, 2024

Effort Over Outcome

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One of the most important things we can have to live a high-quality life, full of rich experiences and meaningful personal challenges, is a growth mindset. Popularized in Carol Dweck’s breakout book titled “Mindset” she unlocked a new era of personal development.

A ‘growth mindset’ is a foundational belief that things can improve. That you can influence the results in your life through practice and experimentation. When you have a growth mindset it means that you receive failure better because you know it’s not permanent. It means that you have more natural motivation because you have the power to bring improvement into your life.

That compares to what Dweck calls a ‘fixed mindset’. This is when you believe that things cannot change and simply are the way they are. You accept reality as it is right now without challenging it for what it could be, feeling little to no agency for what happens in your life.

Let’s take this one layer deeper and talk about self-worth.

Many people attach their sense of self to what they achieve. Even those who have a growth-mindset are vulnerable to this thinking and get frustrated when they don’t create the results that they desire.

The healthy thing to attach to, reenforce, and validate about our performance is the effort we put in.

Here’s a parenting example that will help you see how it works, and how to apply it for yourself: A kid works really hard on an art project and gets an A on it. Rather than celebrating the grade they received, compliment them on the time and effort they put into their piece. It’d be something along the lines of “I’m so proud of how focused you were to create such a beautiful painting” or “It must feel really good to do your best.”

We as adults look at our paychecks, our weight on the scale, or our social media likes to determine how we want to feel about something. But a healthier way to look at it is to reflect on the quality of our work projects, our consistency in the gym and in our diet, and how present we are in our memories to draw conclusions. 

The effort is in our control, the outcome often isn’t. And we can build each of them up by being intentional with the way we relate with both.

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