If you want to achieve long-term happiness, embrace the growth mindset
Everyone seeks the fastest and easiest path to happiness. It’s what drives us as humans. Hoping for a silver bullet that will get us to that end goal, be it wealth, love, or fame. Only when that goal has been met, we reason, will we be happy.
I’ve read every book and even written a few about this journey. However all, my own included, have left me unsatisfied.
To help find the answer, I’ve surrounded myself with successful people. I’ve gotten to know the famous, the ultra-wealthy, and brilliant.
These are people who have achieved their goals. They have the money, the notoriety, and the freedom to do whatever they want. By most standards, they should be the epitome of happiness, yet they’re not.
In fact, they’re no more happy or satisfied than anyone else.
Recently, during a due diligence trip for an upcoming investment, I had the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with one of my new partners in the deal.
This particular gentleman has it all. A loving family, financial success, and all the toys you could ever desire. He doesn’t have to work another day in his life, yet here he was, starting up another venture.
My curiosity got the better of me, and I had to ask why he was here with me rather than laying on the beach of a private island somewhere.
His answer was as simple as it was profound. Chasing goals and learning new things was what made him happy.
This simple comment was the revelation I had been looking for. Happiness doesn’t come from achieving a goal; it comes from the act of making progress towards a goal. In other words, happiness is a function of personal growth.
Fixed vs. Growth Mindsets
There are two types of people in this world, those with a fixed mindset and those with a growth mindset.
Individuals with a fixed mindset aren’t curious and are generally unwilling to seek out change. They’re naturally conservative, in the traditional sense of the word, and struggle to recover from setbacks that naturally occur.
These individuals are resistant to change and reluctant to learn. They have no interest in self-improvement, seeking instead to defend their positions at all costs. As a result, they tend to be fearful, defensive, and generally unhappy people.
Individuals with growth mindsets, however, crave self-improvement. These are people who have the ability to realistically assess where they stand, accept their shortcomings, and change their behavior for the better.
Individuals with growth mindsets have the capacity to demonstrate self-awareness and self-compassion, treating their failures and challenges as opportunities for growth.
As a result, individuals with a growth mindset don’t shy away from new opportunities and challenges. Instead, they embrace change and focus on incremental improvement rather than the result.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, people with a growth mindset tend to be happier, more satisfied, and more at peace than their fixed-mindset colleagues.
As it so happens, happiness really is about the journey rather than the destination.
Self-Awareness and Self-Compassion
Given the benefits of the growth mindset, it begs the question: Why do people tend to default to a fixed mindset?
The answer is simple: fear.
When we lock into a fixed mindset, we are giving into our fear and insecurities. I’ve seen this countless times in business.
Fixed mindset individuals are greedy, short-sighted, and constantly unhappy because they fear growth. Sometimes it comes down to a lack of confidence in their abilities; other times it’s because they fear the pain that often accompanies growth.
In every scenario, however, it leads to general unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and inner turmoil.
If you’re curious as to whether or not you have a fixed or growth mindset, simply evaluate how you recover from setbacks.
Fixed mindset individuals react to setbacks in one of two ways: they either seek to blame others, or they fall into a pit of despair. Their reaction discourages or outright rejects the idea of personal growth, and thus leads to negativity, anger, and sadness.
On the other side of the spectrum, growth mindset individuals possess the self-awareness necessary to learn from setbacks. It doesn’t make defeat any easier to accept, but it does allow for personal growth. Growth mindset individuals possess the capacity to identify, accept, and ultimately overcome their shortcomings.
They treat themselves with a degree of compassion that enables them to continue pursuing goals and thus achieve happiness.
Know Thyself to Achieve Balance
Everything boils down to your ability to demonstrate self-awareness and achieve balance. People who lack self-awareness have a natural tendency to overestimate their value and abilities, which leads to complacency at best and irrelevance at worst.
Self-aware individuals, however, manage to balance the realism of their shortcomings with their optimism and desire to grow.
It is this simple trait that distinguishes the happy from the unhappy.
It doesn’t matter how much money you make, how famous you are, or how many toys you have. If you have a fixed mindset, you’ll always find yourself chasing false happiness that seems forever out of reach.
If, however, you practice self-awareness, self-compassion, and embody a growth mindset, you’ll develop the desire and courage to chase new goals. With the newfound wherewithal to push yourself forward, you’ll experience that magical feeling when you inch ever closer toward your goal.
It is in that incremental progress, ladies, and gentlemen, where true happiness and satisfaction can be found. We simply need to open ourselves up to the growth mindset to enjoy it.