How much you believe in yourself matters more than age when pursuing a new skill or hobby

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TRONDHEIM, Norway — What’s stopping you from learning a new language or a new sport? One common belief is that the older you get, the tougher it is to master something new. Research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, however, finds that it’s actually the level of motivation you have to push yourself that you can do it — and succeed.

Scientists say that women in particular are able to overcome stubbornness that can temper motivation or self-confidence in old age.

“We wanted to see how the passion, grit, and belief that you’ll succeed at getting better – your growth mindset – change with age and in relation to gender,” says Hermundur Sigmundsson, a professor of Psychology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, in a news release.

For many, accepting life as it is gets tougher with age. Settling down means spending more time on the couch than trying without going for something outside of your comfort zone, researchers say. Even if you had a spark of inspiration or a passion for a new hobby, the desire for it tends to wane over time. And with the reduced desire is a waning belief that you can get good at it.

The researchers suggest the biggest barrier is not age, but a person’s fixed mindset that they possess only a certain amount of intelligence or skills. While you may not become a world champion at snowboarding, your proficiency will increase if you keep at it and do not give up.

“That’s when it’s important to maintain a growth mindset. You can’t stop believing in growth even though you’re getting older,” explains Sigmundsson.

While self-confidence may decrease as we age, stubbornness increases. The researchers suggest being stubborn could help with pursuing a growth mindset and not giving up so easily when things get rough. “Passion and a growth mindset decrease with age, but the willingness to persevere increases if we look at the elderly population as a whole,” says Sigmundsson. “Some older people also regain some of their passion.”

The level of stubbornness is about the same in older men and women, but there are some differences. Results suggest men more than women tend to act more passionately for things they want to pursue. But this might not last for long.

Study authors say their research is also the first to prove that women have a stronger growth mindset than men, and generally have the confidence they’ll succeed in whatever they set their minds to. Talk about girl power!

The study is published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

About the Author

Jocelyn Solis-Moreira

Jocelyn is a New York-based science journalist whose work has appeared in Discover Magazine, Health, and Live Science, among other publications. She holds a Master’s of Science in Psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a Bachelor’s of Science in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. Jocelyn has reported on several medical and science topics ranging from coronavirus news to the latest findings in women’s health.

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