How to Foster a Growth Mindset

Why Your Mindset Matters 

While the term mindset may seem like an overused buzzword lately, the term has been studied and written about for many years. Dr. William James, the Father of American Psychology said, “The greatest discovery of the 20th century is that by changing the inner aspects of our minds, we can change the outer aspects of our lives.” Mindset is paramount to how someone interprets the world around them. Mindset can be defined as a way of thinking; an attitude or opinion, especially a habitual one. Your mindset changes the way you view people, situations, and events as well as how you choose to respond. As the old adage goes, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” 

Your mindset can put you in a position to see the best of people and problems that arise from work and daily life. It can propel you forward and keep you ready and adaptive when change comes, or it can hold you down and keep you from reaching your goals.

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset 

Carol Dweck, Ph.D. wrote the book Mindset, The New Psychology of Success. She defines and explains two types of mindsets, fixed and growth. As human beings, we flex between both mindsets. You can even see these mindsets show up in young children. 

A fixed mindset is a lot like it sounds. People believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing it. People with a predominantly fixed mindset believe that talent alone creates success– without effort. In fact, the effort is for those who can’t make it on talent. A fixed mindset sees limitations when presented with a challenge and often refuses to meet the challenge out of fear of failure. The fixed mindset interprets failure as a measurement of their total potential. When faced with failure, this mindset will see it as an impassable obstacle. Sometimes the fixed mindset will avoid challenges all together to avoid negative feelings. A fixed mindset will stick with what it knows and struggles to learn anything new or fake competence to avoid looking and feeling ignorant. 

People with a growth mindset believe that their most basic abilities can be developed and grow through dedication and hard work- brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Teaching a growth mindset creates motivation and productivity in the worlds of business, education, and sports

A growth mindset sees the opportunity to learn and become more effective when presented with a new struggle. Failure is simply a critical part of the learning process to the growth mindset. The effort this mindset puts into a challenge, and the attitude they approach it with are what set them apart. While failure can be painful for people with a growth mindset, they don’t believe it defines them. Challenges and setbacks are simply problems to be faced, dealt with, and learned from. 

The Consequences of Your Mindset

The consequences of both mindsets might be more impactful than you think. Even the most minor changes can have a tremendous compounding effect over time. Positive change creates ripples that turn into waves. Embracing a growth mindset means changing in fundamental ways. Seeing the opportunity in each struggle instead of the pain it is likely to cause will make you more likely to succeed. Even if the growth mindset fails, it still wins because it walks away brighter and sharper, ready to apply the lessons learned to the next problem life throws at them. 

The problems keep coming, and the skill set, confidence, and reputation of the individual with a growth mindset compound over time. The individual with the fixed mindset may stay in the same place, or worse, fall behind. 

Imagine two employees. They both have been working for the company for the same amount of time, around five years. Both have been dreaming about getting promoted into the most competitive department in the office. One has a growth mindset and the other a fixed mindset. Since they started working for their company, the growth mindset has consistently risen to the occasion, learned from the problems that arose, and became notable in the office for their ability to fix them. They are keen and hardworking, always trying to understand more. 

The other has had a fixed mindset. Their skillset hasn’t grown since arriving, and they aren’t known for diligence or determination. Often, rather than standing out among their peers, they blend in. When the opportunity of a lifetime finally comes, only one of them is in any position to go after it.

How to Cultivate a Growth Mindset 

Cultivating a growth mindset starts with self-awareness. Notice what mindset you are in and when your fixed mindset shows up. This will help you reframe the experience and use different languages to help you interpret what is happening. For instance, instead of saying, “I’m afraid I will make a mistake” try, “When I make a mistake, I will learn from it and get better.” When learning a new skill instead of saying “I’m not good at this” try, “I am not good at this yet, but I will learn with time and practice.” 

Your mindset is how you frame and interpret what happens from moment to moment. Retraining yourself to think differently about issues that come your way will cultivate positive interpretations and feelings of growth. Take space to breathe, and rather than letting the first feelings and thoughts that arise about a problem determine how you go about handling it, acknowledge your fears, disappointments, or apprehensions. Having a growth mindset doesn’t mean that you won’t get discouraged or disappointed, it just means that you won’t interpret those feelings as confirmation of your self-worth or potential to improve. Reframe your thoughts to focus on the chances the situation may provide. Will it teach you something important, will it move you closer to your goal, will it help you build your resilience? 

Remind yourself that learning any skill takes time and that failure isn’t a measure of your limit but rather a chance to reflect and learn.

And of course, if you’re looking for support in cultivating a growth mindset, take a look at our Leadership is a Verb program or reach out to us for a complimentary consultation.

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