If you’re looking to advance in every area of your life, adopting a growth mindset could be a real game changer. But what is a growth mindset, exactly, and how do we cultivate one?
Psychologist and Stanford researcher Carol Dweck contends that people who have a growth mindset, “believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work."
On the other hand, those with a fixed mindset, “believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits."
It’s easy to see how limiting a fixed mindset can be. We might resist learning, believing that we’re not talented or smart enough to master a new skill. We could also be unintentionally disparaging to others who we believe don’t quite measure up.
Thankfully, a growth mindset isn’t something you’re born with. It’s something you can learn. Here are our three guidelines to remember when working to cultivate a growth mindset:
Give your fixed mindset a name
When it comes to personal growth, there’s sometimes a tendency to get over serious. But a consultant in Australia took Carol Dweck’s work to a fun new level by encouraging business execs to give their fixed mindset persona a name. Julian, Emily, Thomasina… the name’s up to you.
The idea behind this is to lighten the mood and also to externalize the mindset, separating it from who you are as a person and realizing it’s something that can be changed.
Don’t get into a fixed mindset about your fixed mindset!
Some people fall into the trap of thinking, “I can’t learn because I have a fixed mindset.”
This is the opposite intention of Carol Dweck’s work and defeats the whole object. The main idea is that a growth mindset encourages growth and positive change. So realizing that your fixed mindset can be changed into a growth mindset is the first step toward leading a less limited life.
Realize you’ve got a bit of both
It’s rarely helpful to categorize yourself, and in terms of a growth mindset, this is no different. There’s a misconception that people can be categorized as having either a growth mindset or a fixed one. But the reality is more nuanced. Everyone has a bit of both and slips into different mindsets in different situations.
It’s common for a fixed mindset to come about in times of difficulty or stress, or when we feel vulnerable to learning ideas. Another common trigger for us to flip into a fixed mindset is meeting someone more successful or knowledgeable than us.
Putting it into action
Ready to get started cultivating your new growth mindset? Then check out our list of actionable tips for making that happen. Remember that trying to make too much change at once can be overwhelming. Rather than trying to tackle all of these ideas at once, why not cherry pick a few of your favorites to implement first?
- Reframe challenges as opportunities for self-improvement.
- Replace the word ‘failure’ with ‘learning strategy’, and ‘failing’ with ‘learning’.
- Look at different learning strategies – taking a class, listening to a tape, reading a book, or watching a presentation – to find which helps you learn best in the skills you want to develop.
- Try to keep your focus on the learning process rather than the end result. Enjoyment in what you are doing will help you learn better and also have higher levels of wellbeing.
- If you end up slipping back into believing the brain and people can’t change, just Google ‘brain plasticity’ and check out the huge body of research that suggests otherwise.
- Cultivate a sense of purpose in your life, with the big picture in mind – what would you like to contribute to the world to make it a better place?
- Celebrate your growth with others, and celebrate other people’s growth.
- Redefine your notion of a ‘good job’ – praise yourself more for investing time, effort and enthusiasm, and ‘failing’, than getting a lucky break or an easy win.
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