Growth mindset is a term coined by American Psychologist Carol Dweck in her 2007 book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success“. With this mindset we can navigate life and ultimately find success.
Read on to explore the benefits of having a growth mindset, everyday examples and most importantly, practical tips on how to develop one. But before we delve into that, let’s quickly define what a growth mindset is and how it differs from a fixed mindset, its polar opposite.
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Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of mindsets; fixed mindset and growth mindset.
What is a Fixed Mindset?
A fixed mindset is the belief that everyone is born with traits like intelligence, creativity and certain talents that are “fixed” and cannot be learned or developed over time. Essentially, it is the belief that talent and intelligence are fixed traits.
You are just born with it and that’s how you are, but the problem is, it is very restricting and limits human potential (according to criticism by various researchers).
What is a Growth Mindset?
On the other hand, a growth mindset is the belief that your abilities are malleable traits, that you can change them, improve them, get better, more competent over time. Essentially it is the belief that your abilities can be developed through your effort and hard work. To do that you just have to reframe your failures as learning experiences.
Humans are flexible like that. My mind was blown when I learned about neuroplasticity — the concept that the brain, in response to the environmental triggers, is capable of modifying, changing and adapting both structurally and functionally throughout our lifespan.
Benefits Of Having A Growth Mindset
So we’ve defined what a growth mindset is and how it differs from a fixed mindset, but why exactly is it important? Why is everyone so hyper-fixated on it and how can you benefit from having one?
Fun fact: Carol Dweck is a Psychology professor at Stanford University. She coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. She is best known for her work on, you guessed it — mindset.
Here are 5 key benefits of having a growth mindset that might convince you:
1. Realize Your True Potential
It helps you realize your true potential and reach it too! Humans have so much potential and so much that they are capable of, but most of the time we are held back because of a stagnating fixed mindset.
2. Change Your Brain’s Wavelength
It helps your brain convert the black and white thinking (e.g. “I am not automatically good at this thing I like therefore I must abandon it”) into more helpful thoughts (e.g. “I can work on it and get better because this is something I like doing, therefore, it is worth it”).
3. Have the Ability to Cope Better
It helps you cope better, overcome challenges and it gives you hope. After all, hope is the only thing stronger than fear (Hunger Games fans, where are you at?)
4. Turn Failure into Opportunity
It’ll make you see failures as opportunities and that, my friend, is one of the major stepping stones towards success. Our brain is capable of doing great things and a fixed mindset is like a golden cage, whereas a growth mindset will set it free. Choose to let it fly.
5. Take Control of Your Life
It’ll give you a sense of control over your life. Researchers suggest that people who feel in control of their own lives are more likely to succeed in life. It is about perception and how much you believe in yourself.
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Everyday Examples of a Growth Mindset
Here are some examples of a growth mindset from everyday life which might act as stepping stones towards success. A growth mindset is all about how much you incorporate these little things into your daily life. After all, practice makes perfect, right?
Example 1: Running Late for Work
Honestly, we all have been there and it can be super frustrating. You can’t change the situation but you can manage your reaction to that situation. After all, how you react to a negative situation makes all the difference.
In this example, someone with a fixed mindset will start their day off on the wrong foot, maybe missing their breakfast, rushing out the door (ever been in a hurry and forgot just about everything? Same here, it’s not a good feeling), and ultimately end up having a horrible day, but never taking the steps to alter the behavior.
Someone with a growth mindset will not let one incident bring them down and they will try to make things better tomorrow.
Perhaps they will sleep earlier, prepare their clothes the night before and think of tomorrow as a new day. Someone with a growth mindset learns from their mistakes.
Example 2: Criticism From a Supervisor
Imagine receiving an email from your supervisor asking you to come to their office first thing in the morning tomorrow to discuss the project that you spent endless hours working on, (bye bye sweet sleep!) Then the next day when you show up, they indicate that your work wasn’t up to snuff and they think you aren’t doing your job. Maybe even yelling at you.
In this scenario, an individual with a fixed mindset will beat himself up, be pretty bummed about it, and feel demotivated which will impact his productivity. Then at the end of the day when they go home, they’ll probably scream at someone to take out their frustration.
However, someone with a growth mindset might think along the lines of, “okay maybe my supervisor was just having a bad day, hence the yelling. I can make it work.”
They will work on improving the project without personalizing the criticism and without the self-blame. When they go home, at the end of the day, they’ll brainstorm on how they can work on improving without feeling horrible about themself.
How you think about a situation makes all the difference and helpful thoughts save your day!
Example 3: Your Child Received a Bad Grade at School
In this example, a person with a fixed mindset will probably shout at their child and criticize her, which will end up shattering her self-esteem because they see a bad grade as the end of the world.
On the other hand someone with a growth mindset will acknowledge the need to improve in school without shattering the self-confidence of their child.
They might say something like, “We notice the need to improve and we are going to work together and figure out a way to help you improve your grades. Tomorrow is a new day and we believe in you.”
Example 4: You Failed An Important Exam
As a student, failing an important exam might feel like the end of the world and it can be quite damaging for most of us. In this example, someone with a fixed mindset might start seeing themself as a total failure, lose all their motivation and might stop trying altogether.
Whereas someone with a growth mindset might see this failure as an opportunity to grow, work smarter and ultimately climb that ladder to success.
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How to Develop a Growth Mindset
Now, let’s talk about some practical tips on how to develop a growth mindset in adults and climb that ladder to success that everyone’s been talking about.
1. Practice Self-Reflection
Analyze different aspects of your life. Asking questions like, who you are, who you want to be and what your values are. It may also include identifying things you find particularly challenging, along with your triggers, your setbacks and your strengths.
It’ll not only help you in your personal life but also your professional life. Just note that self-reflection isn’t a one-time thing (done and dusted? Not yet!) but rather a process that will not only help you know yourself but also improve your decision-making skills.
Here are two practical techniques that you can make a part of your daily routine.
Daily journaling is one of the most helpful tools you can use for self-reflection. You can jot down an event that was distressing for you. For example, “my colleague gave me a hard time by criticizing my work and it ruined my day,” followed by your reaction.
In this scenario it could be: “I was unable to be productive for the rest of the day and felt resentful towards my colleague” and what you think your trigger was. For example, I couldn’t handle harsh criticism because to past associations and it made me feel horrible about myself.
Research has shown that 8 weeks of mindfulness training can help to regulate your feelings and improve focus. This is also one of the most efficient techniques to develop a growth mindset.
You can perform some daily check-in by asking questions like, “What am I thinking about right now?” and just breathing through. Don’t try to stop your thoughts. (That is a meditation myth, by the way *surprised gasp.*
Meditation doesn’t put a stop to your thoughts; it helps you to become more aware of them so you can regulate them. Your mind is always going to wander and that’s okay).
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2. Find Your Purpose and Identify Your Goals
A growth mindset paired with a purpose in life is an ultimate duo like Deadpool and Spiderman! It’ll make you resilient and unbeatable. Here are some prompts that can help you identify your purpose in the next five years:
- Who do you want to be in your life?
- What do you have to have? It can be something material or spiritual or both.
- What do you want to do in your life?
- What do you want to give?
- What do you want to feel?
Write them down. There is no limit to the number of items you write down. I spent 15 hours trying to find (tentative) answers to all these questions and 2 more days to edit them.
I understand it is not as easy as it sounds, but YOU GOT THIS! Once you are done writing them, put them up on your wall. Somewhere you can see it all the time.
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3. Challenge Yourself
Push yourself. Face your fears one by one and start easy. Although, I wouldn’t recommend facing your worst fears heads on though, especially if your fears revolve around spiders and creepy-crawly things *visible shiver.* Here is how you can do it:
Jot down some things that terrify you or things that are out of your comfort zone. List them all down. Rate them on a scale of 1-10 (10 being something that scares you to death).
Start from facing the fears that scare you the least. The goal is to overcome your fears one by one, to make yourself comfortable with the idea of uncharted territory and to regain control. You know yourself better than anyone. I trust you to not push yourself too far and know when to stop.
4. Constructive Feedback Is Your Go-To
Always ask the people whom you trust for constructive feedback. Sometimes our brain doesn’t let us identify our own shortcomings out of a defense mechanism (the poor thing is just trying to protect you). Other times it is not even about shortcomings but about improving yourself.
You can ask your colleagues, friends, family or even your supervisor how they think you can improve things and do better. Maybe give them a little feedback form (always a fun time).
It’ll not only help you identify your weaknesses but will also help you to learn from them and grow and that is exactly, my friends, what a growth mindset is.
5. Go Easy On Yourself
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is important but taking care of yourself is more important than you think it is. Research has linked self-care to better professional quality of life in the long run. Never push yourself to the point of burnout.
Just remember, it’s okay to take out time for yourself and to honor your needs. And it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. Listen to your body.
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Growth Mindset Books & Resources
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D
- Growth Mindset Workbook for Kids by Peyton Curley
- The Teens’ Growth Mindset Workbook by Dr. Ellen Weber, Ph.D
- I Can’t Do That, Yet: Growth Mindset by Esther Pia Cordova
- Decades of Scientific Research that Started a Growth Mindset Revolution
- What Having a “Growth Mindset” Actually Means by Carol Dweck
Wrapping Things Up
Now that you know how to develop a growth mindset, remember, whenever it gets overwhelming, take a step back and ask yourself, “What do I need right now? What is my body telling me?” and honor that. You’ll be okay and if you fail to meet your expectations one day, you try again tomorrow. It’s okay and it doesn’t make you a failure.
Success comes to those who use their failure as opportunities, try again the next day, believe in themselves and never give up. All these traits are what will help you to develop a growth mindset and ultimately set yourself up for a successful life.
What will you do today to cultivate a growth mindset?
Let’s continue the discussion over in the Gentlemen Within Private Facebook Community.
Looking forward to seeing you in there.
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