Unlocking the Mindset of Successful Individuals: A Psychological Perspective

Alfred Binet is quoted as having said “It is not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest.” The new psychology of success seems to agree.

Your success quotient is made up of skills, knowledge, and attitude with attitude accounting for 85%. Carol S. Dweck’s book, “Mindset, The New Psychology for Success”, supports how important attitude is, but adds an additional premise that you have to be open to learning rather than closed to learning.

According to Dweck, the world is divided between people who do and don’t have an open mindset. Those who do have an open mindset succeed, often outperform, and lead happier lives as compared to those with exceptional skills and knowledge but who have a closed mindset.

What Makes the BIG Difference?

Strong differences in people’s backgrounds, experiences, education, and training have all been used as a way to explain why some of us achieve success and many of us fall short. According to Dweck, mindsets frame the running account taking place in people’s heads. They guide how you interpret things.

The fixed mindset tends to judge failure as a loss and re-enforces its view of failure with internal monologues such as: “this means I am a loser,” or “this means I am not as good as they are.” It also tends to support shutting down, not trying again, or giving up. Growth mindset people on the other hand are also monitoring negative situations and have an internal dialogue with themselves, but they interpret failure as a challenge and a learning experience.

They know that they can obtain both positive and negative learning from failure experiences. They tend to look at failure as constructive and an opportunity for learning and growth. They ask questions like: “what can I learn from this,” or “how can I improve?”

Paradigm Shift with the New Psychology of Success

With the New Psychology of Success, Dweck suggests that there are four key steps to shifting your closed mindset to being more open. It is also important to note that many of us have both mindsets and they come into play in different situations.

So, when facing a future challenge or setback, or criticism, you might decide that your fixed talents or abilities are lacking. Alternatively, you can try a growth mindset approach that suggests you need to ramp up your efforts, stretch yourself, and possibly train and enhance your skills and abilities.

Here are some suggested steps:

1. Learn to identify and hear your fixed mindset voice.

Look at situations and ask yourself about your judgments and your response to the situation. Are you saying things like: “It’s not too late to back out, make excuses,” or “it’s not my fault?”

2. Recognize that you do have a choice.

Interpreting situations as bad or challenging or a setback can often be shifted to viewing them as a learning experience and a stepping stone to success. The choice is really up to you.

3. Talk back to yourself with a growth mindset voice.

A fixed mindset voice can say things like “are you sure you can do this; maybe you don’t have the talent.” On the other hand, a growth mindset voice might say: “I may not be able to do this right now, but I can learn it with time and help.”

4. Take a growth mindset action step.

Since it is up to you, what you say and hear is up to you. Learn from your setbacks and try again. Take on challenges and when you hear criticism, act on it. This is not always easy but practice, with the support of a coach or mentor, can make all the difference in enhancing your success quotient score and getting attitudes in place for enhanced success.


  • Vukani Nxumalo

    Vukani Nxumalo is the 'thinking' Entrepreneur & Author of 'the thinking book series' and other titles. With over 10 years experience in the Marketing Communications and Financing industries, he knows just how to unpack a business' operations to find effective ways of extracting value. An avid reader and passionate writer, when he speaks, you feel the need to just sit and listen.