Growth Mindset

By April 13, 2020 December 6th, 2020 Executive Coaching

What Is A Mindset?

Psychology Today says that a mindset is a “belief that orients the way we handle situations.”

Our mindset helps us figure out what is going on around us and it allows us to determine how we should react to these situations. 

Dr Gary Klein, author of Seeing What Others Don’t reasons that mindsets are more than just beliefs. He says that our beliefs frame our situations, allow us to discover the important details, and help us set attainable goals.

Faulty mindsets can create manifold problems. They can prevent us from progressing, they can stifle curiosity and innovation and they can result in danger in some situations.

In this chapter we will be taking a look mostly at the so called “Growth Mindset”. We’ll discuss what this mindset entails, what benefits it provides, how this mindset works in business and in leadership and we’ll go over some ways you can develop a growth mindset yourself. 

Let’s first take a look at how mindsets form…

How Does A Mindset Form?

Science and psychology have shown that a person’s emotions and thoughts intertwine and create a neural network in the brain. When this happens, habits are created, and beliefs are rooted even deeper. The more often a thought it believed, or an action is practiced, the stronger this neural network becomes. 

As the neural network becomes stronger, so does the mindset. 

As with many things in life, our mindsets are formed when we are very young. 

Children are like sponges, absorbing everything they can from all the people and experiences around them. These situations played heavily into our mindsets as we moved forward through life.

As small children, we were not able to evaluate the information we were given and we accepted it at face value. It became knowledge that was rooted deeply within us and it became part of our belief system. It told us who we were and where we belonged in the world.

As we grew, we learned and experienced more, and these things highly reinforced or perhaps slightly challenged our deeply held beliefs. Over time, these beliefs became a part of who we are as people and they created our mindsets.

Now that we understand how mindsets are developed, let’s look at the 2 most common mindsets. 

Dueling Mindsets

Carol Dweck, a psychologist from Stanford University has performed a staggering amount of research on mindsets over the years. 

Through her research, she has learned that a person’s beliefs are paramount in what their goals are as well as whether they will actually achieve those goals. She has reasoned that a person’s mindset is pivotal in determining if they will succeed or not.

Dweck gave a group of children a seemingly impossible problem to solve then studied how they reacted to it. 

One group of children treated the problem as a learning experience and a puzzle to solve. The other group of children immediately decided the problem was impossible to solve and they felt as though they were being judged for not being able to solve it.

The opposite reactions for the children showed Dweck and other researchers that there were two different mindsets that prevail among the people of the world.

For some people, challenges are a way to learn and develop new skills. These people believe that new abilities can be developed and strengthened and they believe that perseverance and hard work go a long way in getting through these obstacles.

Others believe that they have a limited number of abilities and that they cannot develop new ones. They believe that all they have is what they were born with and when faced with a problem outside the scope of their perceived abilities, there’s nothing they can do about it but admit defeat. 

The first set of children and first group of people has what is known as a growth mindset, while the second set has a fixed mindset.

What’s the difference between these extremes, then?

Fixed Mindset 

When a child is taught that appearance is more important than ability, they are being set up for problems.

Some people are worried about how they are being perceived they think that their intelligence is being questioned. They worry about falling short of the expectations of others. They have been taught that looking smart is far more important than learning. 

How do people with fixed mindsets deal with life?

  • Setbacks – A single bad grade, a wrong decision, a failed audition… These are life-defining setbacks for people with fixed mindsets since those with fixed mindsets believe that their intelligence and talents are static. One setback will decide the limit of their talents for life.
  • Challenges – When a person has a fixed mindset, they are likely to avoid challenges altogether. Being faced with challenges makes them feel as though they are unintelligent or like they don’t have any talent. These people give up easily and when things get hard, they are no longer interested.
  • Effort – Because people with fixed mindsets believe that people are born with the talents and abilities they possess, they think that success should be effortless (as long as they possess the talent required for the task at hand). These people believe that only people who are “naturals” succeed. 
  • Results – When a person with a fixed mindset fails at something, they believe their work has been wasted. If they failed, they are not a “natural”, and therefore don’t have the talent or smarts to succeed in this endeavor. Successful people don’t need effort in their minds, so if they fail, they are not successful and never will be.

Growth Mindset

Children who are encouraged to explore and seek new experiences and to enjoy challenges are sure to go far.

When a person can see a mistake or an error as an opportunity instead of a failure, when they are eager to try new things and they aren’t afraid to fall on their face a few times, they are much more likely to learn and reach their potential.

When going through life, how do those with growth mindsets handle things?

  • Setbacks – One negative experience, one bad outcome, it’s nothing in the grand scheme of things…at least, it’s not for someone with a growth mindset. These people see setbacks as a blip on the radar, not a definitive example of their intelligence or abilities. 
  • Challenges – People with growth mindsets tend to seek out challenges. These people believe that a person cannot grow without a little discomfort. They see challenges as learning opportunities, allowing them to stretch themselves and helping them to find new and innovative ways to do things.
  • Effort – Those with growth mindsets believe that if you want to succeed at something, you have to work at it. They don’t believe that only “naturals” succeed, prizing instead hard work and perseverance do. When these people apply themselves to a task, they give their all and find their work to be meaningful. 
  • Results – Even if the outcome of the experiment is a failure, a person with a growth mindset does not see themselves as a failure. Instead they see this as a learning experience and believe it can help them to reach success in the future. People who have a growth mindset will learn more from failure than anyone else.

Do You Have A Growth Mindset?

If you aren’t sure where you fall, here are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine if you align more with a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.

How do you handle challenges? Do you embrace them, or avoid them? If you are someone who embraces challenge, you have a growth mindset; if you run from challenges, you have a fixed mindset.

Do you believe that people are born with whatever talent and intelligence they will have for their lifetime? If so, you’ve likely got a fixed mindset.

Do you believe that people can learn and grow? That they can improve their intelligence and develop new abilities? If you believe this, you’re a growth mindset person.

Do you believe that people are just “naturals” at certain things? That you either have it, or you don’t? If this is your belief, you have a fixed mindset.

Do you believe that talent is inborn, or that it can be achieved? What about intelligence or other abilities? If you believe that talent, intelligence, and other abilities are doled out at birth, you’ve got a fixed mindset. However, if you believe that these things can be achieved through hard work and perseverance, you’ve got a growth mindset.

And that’s all well and good…

But why does it matter, and what does it mean in the business world?