In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol S. Dweck explores how our personal beliefs about our talents and capabilities affect the direction of our lives. Dweck suggests that when it comes to challenges, people demonstrate either a fixed or growth mindset.
With a fixed mindset, people believe that their talents and capabilities are fixed traits and cannot be changed. However, if you have a growth mindset, you believe that with time and effort your capabilities can change and improve.
This video summarises nicely the difference between fixed and growth mindsets:
Which one resonates with you? I’ll use myself as an example. I don’t like math and I don’t consider myself to be good at math. This meant that whenever I needed to be savvy with numbers in sometimes even the simplest of ways, I wouldn’t even try as I was completely fixed in my mindset that I was terrible at math. However when I embarked on my Masters program, statistics was a required part of the curriculum. Instead of shying away from this, I knew I had to persevere and probably struggle to achieve my goal. Often it wasn’t easy or fun. But hours of study, Youtube videos, incorrect answers and frustration finally gave way to understanding.
This shows that depending on the situation we might not exist as one or the other - with our mindsets fixed or not. It is very much a choice at each opportunity or challenge to decide whether you go with the easy or the harder option. A good way of thinking about mindsets is asking yourself if you are curious. Could you try that task, and if you did what would happen? Would it really be as bad as you think?
Beliefs are often had to shake and change. A lot of our perceptions of the self come from memorable experiences that were uncomfortable or being frightened to fail. But there are steps you can take to relax your mindset and be more open to growth.
Journey over destination
At Work In Progress we talk a lot about savouring the process over focusing only on outcomes. We are never quite ‘finished’, we are ever-evolving. While it is good to have a goal in mind, difficult things like changing habits and behaviours take time. Eventually the results will start to show, and nothing worth having comes easily. Maybe start with small milestones rather than a large overarching goal so that you can celebrate the smaller wins at each time.
We are never quite ‘finished’, we are ever-evolving
Be a lifelong learner
The average US employee may have between 12 to 15 jobs in their working life. Add a changing, more automated workforce to the landscape and you realise how important upskilling is to keep yourself future-proof. Learning shouldn’t stop once you’ve put away your cap and gown, and you shouldn’t believe the old cliche of ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. The neuroplasticity of our brains means we have the capabilities to learn more, especially when we get into a habit where we are constantly learning new things. Just by being open to learning ‘new tricks’, your behaviours are more likely to reflect those of a person with a growth mindset.
See failure differently
You can learn and grow from your mistakes, and you can even learn from the mistakes of other people. Getting things ‘wrong’ means you know what to do the next time to be ‘right’. When we view failure as an opportunity as part of our journey towards improvement rather than a roadblock, it’s easier to pursue a goal and not be daunted by it.
Find a network of like-minded people
Some of our perceptions about what we can and can’t do are shaped by other people. It could be risk-averse friends and family who don’t want to see us fail, or other people with fixed mindsets who can’t see greatness in anything. Find a network of people who will raise you up and support your goals. These people can offer you words of encouragement, but also critical feedback on your plans. Reach out to inspiring people who you think you can learn from via LinkedIn, and ask if they have time for a coffee to share their journey. You can also join a group coaching program to benefit from not only being accountable to your coach but also your peers.
Embracing a growth mindset is to accept that you’re never finished - you’re always a Work In Progress. It isn’t the easiest path, but it is probably the most rewarding.
What are your tips for developing a growth mindset? Share with us in the comments!