Can Your Attitude be a Better Predictor of Your Success Than IQ?

Psychologist Carol Dweck has led a career researching the correlation between attitude and intelligence. We’re all aware that attitude can impact your life, but could it actually be the determining factor in how smart you are, and thus how successful?

shutterstock_290430740 copyDweck performed a study on elementary school children and asked them to complete puzzles and math problems that were slightly above their ability levels. The response she received was mixed. Some said “I love a challenge!” while most had a catastrophic reaction because they felt inferior and doubted their intelligence.

The ones who felt defeated were asked, “What would you do next time you received another test like this?” The majority said they would cheat, as opposed to study; the next most common response was that they would find someone who did worse than they did to make them feel better. They were running from difficulty.

From this study and many similar studies, Dweck discovered there are two different types of mindsets: growth mindset and fixed mindset.

Someone with a growth mindset doesn’t believe that there are parameters for their ability to gain intelligence or increase their talents. They find joy and passion in their efforts, as well as strategy and process.

A person with a fixed mindset, on the other hand, essentially believes they have a predetermined intelligence, based on genetics, background and other external factors. They shy away from challenges as they do not believe in their ability to work through the process. They like to stay where they are… fixed.

So, how do we shift our mindset from a fixed one to a growth one?


  1. It’s not about convincing yourself that the report due Friday is fun; it’s about finding joy in the process. Gather your information, dive deep and immerse yourself in new knowledge. When curating the information, put pride in your effort. And when writing your report, don’t aim for perfection – aim to learn new ways of presenting. Stop living life going through the motions. Throw yourself into your efforts, and find joy in becoming better with every experience.


  1. Listen, we’re all human, and we can’t be at our best every day. It’s impossible. Some days, you’ll receive a challenge and ask yourself, “Why this being done to me?!” But try to resist letting these thoughts become your mindset. When it’s hard to inspire yourself, try to inspire someone else. You needn’t be a parent to teach something new to someone you know. Praise their efforts as they work through something new and challenging, as opposed to praising their intelligence.


  1. Complaining is a symptom of a fixed mindset. A growth mindset finds opportunity in new and challenging things.


If the following people were to have had a fixed intelligence and talent level, they would have never have reached their full potential.

  • Henry Ford: While Ford is today known for his innovative assembly line and American-made cars, he wasn’t an instant success. In fact, his early businesses failed and left him broke five time before he founded the successful Ford Motor Company.
  • Walt Disney: Today Disney rakes in billions from merchandise, movies and theme parks around the world. But Walt Disney himself had a bit of a rough start. He was fired by a newspaper editor because, the man claimed, “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” After that, Disney started a number of businesses that didn’t last too long and ended in bankruptcy and failure. He kept plugging along, however, and eventually found a recipe for success that worked.
  • Charles Darwin: In his early years, Darwin gave up on having a medical career and was often chastised by his father for being lazy and too dreamy. Darwin himself wrote, “I was considered by all my masters and my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard of intellect.” Perhaps they judged too soon, as Darwin today is world-famous for his scientific breakthroughs.
  • Thomas Edison: In his early years, teachers told Edison he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Work was no better, as he was fired from his first two jobs for not being productive enough. Even as an inventor, Edison went through 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. Of course, all those unsuccessful attempts finally resulted in the design that worked.
  • Most people know Oprah Winfrey as one of the most iconic faces on TV, as well as one of the richest and most successful women in the world. Oprah faced a hard road to get to that position, however, enduring a rough and often abusive childhood as well as numerous career setbacks, including being fired from her job as a television reporter because she was “unfit for TV.”


… just to name a few!

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