Why Attitude Is More Important Than Intelligence

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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 three-mile 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.

Bringing it all together

By keeping track of how you respond to the little things, you can work every day to keep yourself on the right side of the chart above.

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20 Quotes on the Importance of Gratitude

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With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I wanted to share with you 20 quotes that really help put into perspective the power and importance of being thankful more of the time and not just on one particular day out of the year.

1. “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” — William Arthur Ward

2. “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” — Oprah Winfrey

3. “If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.” — Frank A. Clark

4. “Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” — Maya Angelou

5. “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

6. “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” — Marcus Tullius Cicero

7. “The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.” — Henry Ward Beecher

8. “We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” — John F. Kennedy

9. “Thank you is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.” — Alice Walker

10. “None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” — Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

11. “Gratitude always comes into play; research shows that people are happier if they are grateful for the positive things in their lives, rather than worrying about what might be missing.” — Dan Buettner

12. “The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.” — Dalai Lama

13. “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” — Willie Nelson

14. “Appreciation can change a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” — Margaret Cousins

15. “If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.” — W. Clement Stone

16. “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” — Albert Einstein

17. “Look at everything as though you were seeing it for the first or the last time, then your time on earth will be filled with glory.” — Betty Smith

18. “When you give and carry out acts of kindness, it’s as though something inside your body responds and says, ‘Yes, this is how I ought to feel.” — Rabbi Harold Kushner

19. “Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.” — W.T. Purkiser

20. “All across America, we gather this week with the people we love to give thanks to God for the blessings in our lives.” — President George W. Bush

Gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions that you can practice in your everyday life.

Do you have a favorite quote about gratitude not found above? Share it in the comments section below.