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If you have children at school, or you work in education, you may have heard all about fixed vs growth mindset. Many school children are taught growth mindset strategies to help them embrace challenges and develop a love of learning.
You may not realise however just how powerful your mindset is as an adult, and how by cultivating a growth mindset you can get more out of life and truly reach your potential.
The power of your mindset
Your mindset has the power to transform your life – it will influence whether you reach your goals and accomplish the things that matter to you.
Dr Carol Dweck, a leading researcher in the fields of personality, social psychology and developmental psychology confirms that
the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you live your life
Dweck’s book, Mindset: changing the way you think to fulfil your potential, explores how adopting a growth mindset can have wide-ranging benefits not just in the school environment but also in business, parenting, sports and relationships.
What’s the difference between fixed and growth mindsets?
It all comes down to the thoughts or beliefs you have about your qualities and abilities.
When you have a fixed mindset you believe that your qualities are what they are and can’t be changed.
- I can’t do…
- I’m not good at…
- I’m not the type of person who can…
- I have no artistic ability, creativity, sporting ability…etc
When you have a fixed mindset you believe that success relies on only effort OR ability. You believe that if you have to expend a lot of effort to achieve something, you just aren’t good at it.
You might believe that you are intelligent or have sports ability, but if you have a fixed mindset you don’t challenge yourself in case you don’t measure up, or worse, you fail. And if things don’t go well for you think it was probably meant to be.
When you have a fixed mindset you feel fearful of being judged because you believe that your abilities reflect on your worth. This means you are more sensitive to criticism or being proven wrong. You also feel that need to prove your ability. To be validated as the smart one, the creative one, or the best athlete.
When you have a fixed mindset the way you talk to yourself is based on judgement. When something happens in your life (to you or another person) your first thoughts tend to be judgemental. “This means I am a….” or “This means they are a…”
When you have a growth mindset you are focused on learning and improving. You believe that your abilities are changeable that you can develop them.
When you have a growth mindset you believe that when you apply effort, implement strategies and accept help, you can develop your abilities. You can get better.
Think of it as moving from believing
“I can’t do this” to “I can’t do this yet“
This doesn’t mean everything will always go your way. When things don’t work out it still is uncomfortable. And yes, it can hurt. But the failure doesn’t define you as a person.
When you have a growth mindset you look at what you can learn from failure – you see it as an opportunity for growth. You understand that failure is an experience, not an identity. YOU are not a failure.
Your self-talk is different when you apply a growth mindset. You are not judgmental of yourself or others, but ask “What can I learn from this?” , “What can I improve?”, “How can I help?”
When you have a growth mindset you recognise that success is not about effort OR ability. It’s both.
no matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into acomplishment – Dr Carol S. Dweck
You also recognise that if your efforts aren’t working then you need to try new strategies. That you may also need to seek feedback or input from others to help you succeed.
When you have a growth mindset you know that to achieve your goals you have to make a plan. You don’t just set a goal and expect willpower to get you there. You
- come up with strategies to deal with setbacks
- decide what you will do the next time a setback happens
- work out which habits you need to develop the maintain your success
Why Cultivating a Growth Mindset will Transform Your Life
When you cultivate a growth mindset you learn the skills you need to learn to reach your goals. You
- feel more courageous and open to new experiences
- enjoy challenges
- are willing to put in more effort
- are more resilient when faced with setbacks
- develop greater creativity
All the things that will help you fulfil your ambitions and realise your dreams.
If you feel that your mindset is holding you back from achieving your goals, know that
You CAN change your mindset
Mindsets are beliefs, and you can choose what to believe about yourself.
So how do you do this? How DO you change the way you talk to yourself? How do you change from thinking in a judgemental way to thinking in a learning-and-growth oriented way?
It’s not always easy. A fixed mindset might be part of your identity. Maybe you’ve always been the smart one, or the sporty one or the quiet one?
It can feel very unsettling to change to a mindset that requires you to embrace things that you’ve previously tried to avoid such as challenge, criticism or setbacks.
Moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset is a journey.
In her book, Mindset: changing the way you think to fulfil your potential, Dr Carol Dweck outlines the journey from fixed mindset to growth mindset. She breaks it down into four steps:
Step 1 – Acknowledge and accept your current mindset
Everyone is a mixture of both fixed and growth mindsets – it’s part of being human. We can accept that we have a fixed mindset but still limit how often it shows up.
Step 2 – Become aware of your fixed mindset triggers
What situations, feelings or people cause your fixed mindset to come to the fore. Maybe it’s criticism, failure, disagreements, or disappointment?
Step 3 – Create a persona for your fixed mindset
Give the persona a name. How do they make you think, feel and act? I know this sounds a little weird, but it really does help in identifying when your fixed mindset appears and then working effectively to educate it.
Step 4 – Educate it
Be prepared for when your fixed mindset shows up and educate it in some new growth mindset ways. When your fixed mindset persona appears, don’t suppress it, acknowledge it – “I know you are trying to protect me, but I have an idea about how we could approach this situation differently. Let’s try it.”
It may take time, but your fixed mindset persona will eventually learn new ways of thinking.
Keep Learning to Keep Growing
Developing a growth mindset isn’t a “set-and-forget” type of thing. You need to keep learning to keep your growth mindset flourishing.
Keep setting goals for growth. Look for growth opportunities and make a plan to accomplish them. If you encounter setbacks, revise the plan.
When you succeed it’s not the end. Ask yourself “what do I have to do to maintain this and continue to grow?”
Mindset change requires maintenance. You need to keep using the strategies you’ve developed. Growth takes time, effort and support, but the results are most definitely worth it!
If we did the things that we were capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves – Thomas Edison