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How to develop a growth mindset

9th April 2017 | Beverly Landais

Growth mindset. You know when someone is their positive zone. They exude belief in themselves and their ability to learn. They can thrive during tough times. They are resourceful, flexible and able to deal constructively with setbacks. These are people you want to be around because their behaviour inspires you.

Contrast this with someone who has a rigid mindset: they can be prickly when challenged, difficult to engage and defensive about new ideas. They can play the blame game and make excuses when something goes wrong. At their worst, such people can suck the energy right out of the room.

Our mindset has an enormous impact on how we behave and deal with situations. The good news is that mindsets are not fixed. They are beliefs that we hold about our given talents, ability to learn, our intelligence and personality. We can choose our beliefs and this will determine our mindset.

Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University has researched the concept of mindset extensively. In her best-selling book ‘Mindset – Changing the Way You think To Fulfil Your Potential’, Dweck says that it’s not intelligence, talent or education that sets successful people apart. It’s their mindset or the way they approach life’s challenges. 

Through her work, Dweck identified two different mindsets: fixed mindset and growth mindset. Reflecting on the difference can help you understand why you habitually make certain choices as well as consider how well these serve you.

Having a growth mindset means believing you can develop your abilities through hard work, perseverance and drive. People with a growth mindset love to learn, enjoy a challenge and welcome feedback. They deal with disappointment by being pragmatic about what can be learnt from the experience. Such people develop strong personal resilience and grit which in turn spurs them on to eventually succeed.

A fixed mindset is the belief that you can do something well or not. You believe that you are born with a set of skills and talents and you can’t change them. It can mean avoiding a challenge, reject useful feedback or feel threatened by the success of others. A fixed mindset can fossilise you in a fearful and vulnerable state.

According to Dweck, a “pure” growth mindset doesn’t exist. Everyone is a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. We all have our own fixed mindset triggers. When we face challenges or receive criticism, we can easily become insecure. This reduces our ability to be constructive and pushes us into a defensive frame of mind.

I would say that working to achieve more of a growth orientated mindset is a much desirable place to be than settling for a fixed mindset. It can help us better cope with change and deal more constructively with life’s challenges.

Here are some simple yet effective steps that you can take to spot and deal with these triggers so that you remain in a growth orientated zone.

Monitor that self-talk

Self-talk in a fixed mindset might sound like you are making excuses, blaming others or it is that 3 am in the morning voice that says, “you are not good enough – you don’t have the talent for this”. Learn to spot when this happens. Notice the effect it has on you. Talk back to it with a growth mindset voice, telling yourself feedback is an opportunity to improve, and that you can learn from mistakes.

Be the CEO of your responses

We all face setbacks as well as enjoy success throughout life. You can either learn from them and move on or remain bitter and disappointed. It really is your choice.

Develop the habit of reflective practice 

It helps to develop a questioning approach to self-improvement. Try using Rolfe’s framework for reflective practice. Dr Gary Rolfe uses three simple questions to reflect on a situation: What? (happened), So what? (does it mean) and Now what? (do I need to do). The final question can make the greatest contribution to learning and personal growth.

Embrace feedback

Seek out opportunities to gain honest critical feedback. If you are open to other’s views and ideas, they are more likely to share these with you. Welcoming feedback also encourages people to want to help and support your desire to improve. 

Find a mentor

Buddy up with someone who can mentor you and support your efforts to learn. This can make a big difference to your determination to stay in the growth zone. Having someone to share ideas and strategies for overcoming obstacles, can really help with the motivation to push on.

Our mindset has a direct influence on how we cope with whatever life brings. A growth mindset says hard work and perseverance coupled with a flexible and resourceful attitude will help you to win through. We are the CEO of our own mindset – choose wisely for what we think is what we become.

9th April 2017 | Beverly Landais

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