A strategic mindset predicts success - and it can be taught

Research: Those who seek out alternative strategies when confronted with setbacks are more likely to attain their goals.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 27 Jul 2020

Most explanations of success depend on some combination of good fortune, natural talent and hard work - only one of which you can do anything about. 

But there is another factor that we tend to overlook, which is at least partly under your control. 

New research from the National University of Singapore found that a strategic mindset was linked to higher achievement.

In essence, this means that when faced with a challenge or setback, people who ask ‘is there a better way to do this?’ and seek out alternative strategies are more likely to attain their goals. 

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved three experiments.

In the first, researchers surveyed 365 students, finding that a strategic mindset predicted higher grades. A similar experiment with 365 working-age adults found that this mindset was also linked to better professional and health outcomes.

In the final experiment, researchers set people a challenging, novel task under time pressure. Half the participants were taught about strategic mindsets immediately before, the other half received no training.

The group that received the training employed more effective strategies and achieved superior results in the task. 

The implication is that this mindset for success can be taught. "These findings are exciting because psychological science has long known that having a wide repertoire of strategies matters. But until now, we hadn't understood why some people use their strategies more than others at the right time," says assistant professor Patricia Chen, the study’s lead author.

Image credit: Universal Images Group via Getty Images


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