Why At­ti­tude Is More Im­por­tant Than IQ


When it comes to suc­cess, it’s easy to think that peo­ple blessed with brains are inevitably go­ing to leave the rest of us in the dust. But new re­search from Stan­ford Univer­sity will change your mind (and your at­ti­tude).

Psy­chol­o­gist Carol Dweck has spent her en­tire ca­reer study­ing at­ti­tude and per­for­mance, and her lat­est study shows that your at­ti­tude is a bet­ter pre­dic­tor of your suc­cess than your IQ.

Dweck found that peo­ple’s core at­ti­tudes fall into one of two cat­e­gories: a fixed mind­set or a growth mind­set.

With a fixed mind­set, you be­lieve you are who you are and you can­not change. This creates prob­lems when you’re chal­lenged, be­cause any­thing that ap­pears to be more than you can han­dle is bound to make you feel hope­less and over­whelmed.

Peo­ple with a growth mind­set be­lieve that they can im­prove with ef­fort. They out­per­form those with a fixed mind­set, even when they have a lower IQ, be­cause they em­brace chal­lenges, treat­ing them as op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn some­thing new.

Com­mon sense would sug­gest that hav­ing abil­ity, like be­ing smart, in­spires con­fi­dence. It does, but only while the go­ing is easy. The de­cid­ing fac­tor in life is how you han­dle set­backs and chal­lenges. Peo­ple with a growth mind­set wel­come set­backs with open arms.

Ac­cord­ing to Dweck, suc­cess in life is all about how you deal with fail­ure. She de­scribes the ap­proach to fail­ure of peo­ple with the growth mind­set this way: “Fail­ure is in­for­ma­tion—we la­bel it fail­ure, but it’s more like, ‘This didn’t work, and I’m a prob­lem solver, so I’ll try some­thing else.’”

Re­gard­less of which side of the chart you fall on, you can make changes and de­velop a growth mind­set. What fol­lows are some strate­gies that will fine-tune your mind­set and help you make cer­tain it’s as growth-ori­ented as pos­si­ble.

Don’t Stay Help­less

We all hit mo­ments when we feel help­less. The test is how we re­act to that feel­ing. We can ei­ther learn from it and move for­ward, or let it drag us down. There are count­less suc­cess­ful peo­ple who would have never made it if they had suc­cumbed to feel­ings of help­less­ness: Walt Dis­ney was fired from the Kansas City Star be­cause he “lacked imag­i­na­tion and had no good ideas,” Oprah Win­frey was fired from her job as a TV an­chor in Bal­ti­more for be­ing “too emo­tion­ally in­vested in her sto­ries,” Henry Ford had two failed car com­pa­nies prior to suc­ceed­ing with Ford, and Steven Spiel­berg was re­jected by USC’s Cin­e­matic

Arts School mul­ti­ple times. Imag­ine what would have hap­pened if any of th­ese peo­ple had a fixed mind­set. They would have suc­cumbed to the re­jec­tion and given up hope. Peo­ple with a growth mind­set don’t feel help­less be­cause they know that in or­der to be suc­cess­ful you need to be will­ing to fail hard and then bounce right back.

Be Pas­sion­ate

Em­pow­ered peo­ple pur­sue their pas­sions re­lent­lessly. There’s al­ways go­ing to be some­one who’s more nat­u­rally tal­ented than you are, but what you lack in tal­ent you can make up for in pas­sion. Em­pow­ered peo­ple’s pas­sion is what drives their un­re­lent­ing pur­suit of ex­cel­lence. War­ren Buf­fet rec­om­mends find­ing your truest pas­sions us­ing, what he calls, the 5/25 tech­nique: Write down the 25 things that you care about the most. Then, cross out the bot­tom 20. The re­main­ing 5 are your true pas­sions. Ev­ery­thing else is merely a dis­trac­tion.

Take Ac­tion

It’s not that peo­ple with a growth mind­set are able to over­come their fears be­cause they are braver than the rest of us; it’s just that they know fear and anx­i­ety are par­a­lyz­ing emo­tions and that the best way to over­come this paral­y­sis is to take ac­tion. Peo­ple with a growth mind­set are em­pow­ered, and

em­pow­ered peo­ple know that there’s no such thing as a truly per­fect mo­ment to move for­ward. So why wait for one? Tak­ing ac­tion turns all your worry and con­cern about fail­ure into pos­i­tive, fo­cused en­ergy.

Then Go The Ex­tra Mile (Or Two)

Em­pow­ered peo­ple give it their all, even on their worst days. They’re al­ways push­ing them­selves to go the ex­tra mile. One of Bruce Lee’s pupils ran three miles ev­ery day with him. One day, they were about to hit the three­mile mark when Bruce said, “Let’s do two more.” His pupil was tired and said, “I’ll die if I run two more.” Bruce’s re­sponse? “Then do it.” His pupil be­came so an­gry that he fin­ished the full five miles. Ex­hausted and fu­ri­ous, he con­fronted Bruce about his com­ment, and Bruce ex­plained it this way: “Quit and you might as well be dead. If you al­ways put lim­its on what you can do, phys­i­cal or any­thing else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your moral­ity, into your en­tire be­ing. There are no lim­its. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there; you must go be­yond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must con­stantly ex­ceed his level.”

If you aren’t get­ting a lit­tle bit bet­ter each day, then you’re most likely get­ting a lit­tle worse—and what kind of life is that?

Ex­pect Re­sults

Peo­ple with a growth mind­set know that they’re go­ing to fail from time to time, but they never let that keep them from ex­pect­ing re­sults. Ex­pect­ing re­sults keeps you mo­ti­vated and feeds the cy­cle of em­pow­er­ment. Af­ter all, if you don’t think you’re go­ing to suc­ceed, then why bother?

Be Flex­i­ble

Ev­ery­one en­coun­ters unan­tic­i­pated ad­ver­sity. Peo­ple with an em­pow­ered, growth-ori­ented mind­set em­brace ad­ver­sity as a means for im­prove­ment, as op­posed to some­thing that holds them back. When an un­ex­pected sit­u­a­tion chal­lenges an em­pow­ered per­son, they flex un­til they get re­sults.

Don’t Com­plain When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Com­plain­ing is an ob­vi­ous sign of a fixed mind­set. A growth mind­set looks for op­por­tu­nity in ev­ery­thing, so there’s no room for com­plaints.


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