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Strategic Mindset Can Better Meet Challenges, Foster Success

New research shows that one important psychological factor behind success may be a “strategic mindset.”

The study, led by Assistant Professor Patricia Chen from the Department of Psychology at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, finds that many successful entrepreneurs, business people, students, athletes and more, tend to be more strategic and thus more effective at meeting such challenges.

Chen, in collaboration with Stanford University psychologists, found that when faced with challenges or setbacks, individuals with a strategic mindset are more likely to ask themselves: “How else can I do this? Is there a better way of doing this?”

The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Investigators discovered those who have a strategic mindset tend to apply more effective strategies when working towards their goals in life — educational, work, health and fitness goals. In turn, they achieve higher school grades, make greater progress towards their professional, health, and fitness goals, and even perform a novel challenging task more efficiently.

“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. We developed our research on the strategic mindset to explain why this might be,” said Chen.

Chen and her collaborators conducted a series of three studies, involving over 860 college students and working adults from the United States. One of their studies on 365 college students found that students’ strategic mindset predicted how much they reported using effective learning strategies in their classes. And, the more they used these effective strategies, the better they performed in their classes that semester, and also in new, different classes the subsequent semester.

A second study surveying 365 adults across the United States about their strategic mindset, and relating their mindset to how effective these adults were at pursuing professional, educational, health, and fitness goals of importance to them, produced similar findings.

Can people learn a strategic mindset? To find out, researchers randomly assigned some people to learn about a strategic mindset through a brief training session. Later, they gave these people a novel, challenging task to accomplish as quickly as possible.

Compared to other people in the study who were not exposed to these strategic mindset ideas, those who received training on developing a strategic mindset applied more effective strategies to accomplish the task. Their strategic behaviors, in turn, translated into faster task performance.

Additionally, these people who had learned about a strategic mindset also voluntarily practiced the task more before they had to perform it under time pressure, suggesting that a strategic mindset also has important implications for practice.

How does the strategic mindset work? Co-author Professor Carol Dweck from the Department of Psychology at Stanford University explained, “There are key points in any challenging pursuit that require people to step back and come up with new strategies. A strategic mindset helps them do just that.”

Today, many around the world are facing greater struggles. The good news is, people can immediately apply this insight to their lives.

Said Chen, “As you approach whatever challenging goal you are pursuing, you can ask yourself, ‘What are things I can do to help myself (and others)? Is there a way to do this even better?’

If something you have been working on isn’t going so well, can you step back and ask yourself, ‘How might I go about this differently? Is there another approach I can try to help this go better?'”

Future research will investigate ways to develop and cultivate a strategic mindset among children and adults at scale.

Source: National University of Singapore/EurekAlert

Strategic Mindset Can Better Meet Challenges, Foster Success

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2020). Strategic Mindset Can Better Meet Challenges, Foster Success. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 Jun 2020 (Originally: 17 Jun 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 17 Jun 2020
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