Growth and fixed mindsets and working toward long-term goals

Individuals with a fixed mindset believe that if you have to work hard at something, then success in that activity is not meant to be. The problem with the fixed mindset is that it is limiting. Is it true that if you are not already an expert in your field, you’ll never have some level of expertise? Achieving this takes an incredible amount of grit and commitment to focusing on the process and not the outcome, topics I’ve written about in other posts.

Why completing a PhD program is more about grit than anything else

A couple of years ago, I was asked to do a literature review on grit. I was to examine grit in relation to doctoral students’ persistence through challenging academic environments.

At the time, I was not familiar with Angela Duckworth’s research or the notion that something more than talent/innate ability or IQ could predict achievement.

What is grit?

Duckworth defines grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals. That is, goals where the rewards are not immediate. Working toward an advanced degree, like the PhD, is an example of a goal where those who successfully attain the degree might have had to rely on grit.

While resilience may play a role in this trait, grit is about having passion and stamina to persist toward a very long-term goal, despite obstacles and the absence of immediate rewards.


Focus on the Process not the Outcome

I recently spoke with some students about living fully during what I now call “the process.”

While not a new concept or idea, I define the process as the period between when you start actively working on a long-term goal and the moment you attain the envisioned outcome.

If you aim to pursue graduate studies, the process will begin when you start working on this goal. A series of things have to happen to get you from point A to point B.

You’ll need letters of recommendation, transcripts, writing samples, statements of purpose, etc. The list goes on. Even when you submit your applications, you’ll have to wait. When the acceptance letters roll in, you’ll still have to wait for school to start. If you are not lucky to get in the first time around, you’ll have to wait again for another application cycle. How are you choosing to live during these waiting periods?

When I stopped thinking, I’ll be happy once I reach my goal. I realized that I could still fully engage with life while striving to achieve my long-term goals. I realized I had to continue being my best self during these waiting periods.

  • Yes, off course, if you want to save for graduate school applications, you might consider reducing the number of Uber rides you take.
  • Yes, sure, if you need to take the GRE and you know you need to purchase test-prep materials, you should consider cutting down on weekend brunches. But our lives do not have to be put on hold until we achieve a goal. I’ll ask differently, how are you choosing to engage in the process? Are you just letting time pass by?