“If you don’t change anything nothing will change”
Albert Einstein once stated that: “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.”
A “fixed mindset,” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens, it’s what we were born with, which we can’t change in any meaningful way.
On the other hand, people who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a “growth mindset”. They thrive on challenge and see failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.
Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, comes our belief about whether or not we believe we can succeed at whatever we want to be. We are not what other people said we were at a young age. Ever had a parent or teacher say this to you as a child,” You’re drawing is terrible. You just don’t have math skills. You are not athletic.” They were wrong. Here’s the good news. No matter your current mindset, you can adopt and nurture a growth mindset but you have work to do.
Most people have one mindset or the other. Some have a combination. The good news is that we can all adopt a growth mindset, simply by putting ourselves in one. It’s hard work, but individuals can gain a lot by deepening their understanding of growth-mindset concepts and the processes for putting them into practice. It gives them a richer sense of who they are, what they stand for, and how they want to move forward.
Learning to go from a fixed to growth mindset requires 8 general approaches (Zimmerman, 2016)
- Create a new compelling belief: a belief in yourself, in your own skills and abilities, and in your capacity for positive change.
- View failure in a different light: see failure as an opportunity to learn from your experiences and apply what you have learned next time around.
- Cultivate your self-awareness: work on becoming more aware of your talents, strengths, and weaknesses; gather feedback from those who know you best and put it together for a comprehensive view of yourself.
- Be curious and commit to lifelong learning: try to adopt the attitude of a child, looking at the world around you with awe and wonderment; ask questions and truly listen to the answers.
- Get friendly with challenges: know that if you mean to accomplish anything worthwhile, you will face many challenges on your journey; prepare yourself for facing these challenges, and for failing sometimes.
- Do what you love and love what you do: it’s much easier to succeed when you are passionate about what you’re doing; whether you cultivate love for what you already do or focus on doing what you already love, developing passion is important.
- Be tenacious: it takes a lot of hard work to succeed, but it takes even more than working hard—you must be tenacious, weathering obstacles and getting back up after each time you fall.
- Inspire and be inspired by others: it can be tempting to envy others when they succeed, especially if they go farther than you, but it will not help you to succeed; commit to being an inspiration to others and use the success of others to get inspiration as well.
Follow these 8 principles and you will find it hard to have anything but a growth mindset!
For more specific techniques you can use to start building a growth mindset now, try these 25 suggestions from Saga Briggs (2015):
- Acknowledge and embrace your imperfections; don’t hide from your weaknesses.
- View challenges as opportunities for self-improvement.
- Try different learning tactics and strategies; don’t consider any strategies one-size-fits-all.
- Keep up on the research on brain plasticity to continually encourage the growth mindset.
- Replace the word “failing” with the word “learning” in your vocabulary.
- Stop seeking approval for others, and prioritize learning over approval.
- Value the learning process over the end result.
- Cultivate a sense of purpose, and keep things in perspective.
- Celebrate your growth with others, and celebrate their growth as well.
- Emphasize learning well over learning quickly.
- Reward actions instead of traits.
- Redefine “genius” as hard work plus talent, rather than talent alone.
- Give constructive criticism, and accept criticism of your own work as constructive.
- Disassociate improvement from failure; “room for improvement” does not mean “failure.”
- Reflect on your learning regularly.
- Reward hard work before talent or inherent ability.
- Emphasize the relationship between learning and “brain training;” like any other muscle, the brain can be trained.
- Cultivate your grit (determination and perseverance).
- Abandon the idea of succeeding on talent alone; recognize that it will always take some work as well.
- Use the phrase “not yet” more often, as in, “I haven’t mastered it yet.”
- Learn from the mistakes that others make.
- Make a new goal for every goal you accomplish; never stop striving towards your goals.
- Take risks and be vulnerable with others.
- Think realistically about how much time and effort your goal will take.
- Take ownership of your own attitude, and take pride in your developing growth mindset.
If you leave this piece with only one takeaway, I hope that it is a belief in yourself and your abilities to grow, to develop, and to thrive beyond what you currently perceive as your limits.
Having a growth mindset isn’t an “easy button” solution to any problem, and it will not automatically cause good things to happen to you; however, it will likely make it easier and more enjoyable to work hard toward your goals and give you the confidence you need to set ever more ambitious goals.
If you’re still hungry for more tips on building a growth mindset, see the exercises and activities detailed in our blog: Power of Believing you can Improve (for Kids)
- Briggs, S. (2015). 25 Ways to develop a growth mindset. InformED. Retrieved from https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/develop-a-growth-mindset/
- Character Lab. (n.d.). Growth mindset. Character LAB. Retrieved from https://www.characterlab.org/growth-mindset/
- Dweck, C. (2016). What having a “growth mindset” actually means. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/01/what-having-a-growth-mindset-actually-means
- Gerstein, J. (n.d.). Cultivate a growth mindset with these 6 strategies. Noodle. Retrieved from https://www.noodle.com/articles/these-6-strategies-will-promote-a-growth-mindset-in-your-kid
- Mindset Works. (n.d.). Decades of scientific research that started a growth mindset revolution. Mindset Works. Retrieved from https://www.mindsetworks.com/Science/Default
- Rhodes, J. (2015, August 24). Growth mindset examples: How everyday situations create opportunity for learning and progress. LinkedIn. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/growth-mindset-examples-how-everyday-situations-create-john-rhodes/
- Zimmerman, A. (2016). Shift to a growth mindset with these 8 powerful strategies. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/angelina-zimmerman/the-8-tremendous-ways-for-developing-a-growth-mindset.html
Resources: Carol Dweck’s Book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
Carol Dweck’s 2007 book on her growth vs. fixed mindset theory is titled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In this book, Dweck describes the importance of having the right mindset to maximize our potential and capitalize on our strengths. This theory explains how the way we think about our intelligence, abilities, and talents can have a huge impact on our success in every area of life.
It focuses on both improving your own mindset and on building the right mindset in children, making it an excellent read for parents, teachers, coaches, and managers.