Probably, the number one thinker in the area of mindset is a lady called Carol Dweck an American psychologist and a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. She divides people and their mindsets into two different camps those with:
- A growth mindset
- A fixed mindset
So, what’s the difference?
The difference between the two is that people with a growth mindset believe that their intelligence and talent can be improved through application, effort and learning. Those with a fixed mindset take a different view, believing that their intelligence and their associated abilities are fixed, innate and cannot be changed.
If you embrace change and learning and see setbacks as opportunities for growth you are likely to possess a growth mindset, while people with a fixed mindset mentally process setbacks as evidence of a personal deficit and, sadly, make little or no attempt to change their current situation.
Why does this matter?
Having a growth mindset is important because it can help you overcome obstacles, develop resilience, and critically, learn from challenges, mistakes, and failures. Interestingly and personally, it can also affect your happiness, well-being and success. It does this by making you more flexible, satisfied, and adaptable. A growth mindset means that you believe your talents and intelligence can be developed through application and feedback.
In contrast, a fixed mindset assumes that our personalities are set in stone and our abilities are predetermined. People with a fixed mindset will often see failure as a reflection of their abilities rather than an opportunity to learn and grow.
So, are there any strategies for developing a growth mindset?
Fortunately, there are a number of things that we can do and behaviours that we can adopt which will help us develop a growth mindset. Some of which include:
- Asking for feedback: I love the phrases “Feedback is the breakfast of champions” and the neurolinguistic programming (NLP) pre-supposition “There is no failure; only feedback”. You cannot grow without it. Feedback (and coaching) helps you identify areas where you need to improve and areas where you are doing well. You need to construct an environment where someone “holds the mirror” for you.
- Believe in yourself: For many people this is very hard; they may have taken knocks from parents, teachers and others, so I do understand it’s sometimes hard. But, dig deep and believe that you can learn and grow. Don’t let setbacks discourage you. Instead, see them as opportunities for growth.
- Develop a mantra: This might cross over with the above point but developing a mantra can help. Perhaps something along the lines of “I am getting better at X”, “I am making progress in Y”… Just something to repeat to yourself in order to bolster confidence.
- Embrace (even celebrate!) failure: Failure is a completely natural part of the learning process. Don’t be afraid to fail. Feel the fear and do it anyway is a great title for one of the greatest little books. Instead, learn from your mistakes and use them as opportunities for growth. I think it was in Henry Stewart’s book (The Happy Manifesto) where I recently read about an external contractor who had made and immediately owned up to a massive mistake while he was working in the Happy offices. His firm fired him. Happy hired him. And as he joined was given a massive cheer for making “and owning” his mistake. It was only because he manned up and admitted the error that Happy were able to rectify the issue in good time.
- Replace negative thoughts with positive ones: A great quote comes from Shakespeare (much to my kids amusement I’ve always called him Shaky Bill) he said something along the lines of “Nothing is either good or bad, it’s just thinking makes it so”. Negative thoughts hold you back. Notice them and consciously replace them with positive thoughts that encourage growth and learning.
- Practice meditation and mindfulness: 30 years ago I did a course on TM in Hackney and a few years prior to COVID I spent 4 days at a silent retreat at Gaia House in Devon. Great stuff meditation and mindfulness, I don’t do it enough. Mindfulness can help you stay focused on the present moment and reduce stress and anxiety. It can also help you develop a growth mindset by encouraging you to be open to new experiences and ideas.
What are the benefits?
Adopting a growth mindset can bring numerous benefits in both your personal and professional life some of the more notable benefits people with a growth mindset report are:
- Able to enjoy life more: Life is enjoyed more because you are not afraid of failure and are more willing to take risks… Some people are very cavalier and revel in being so!
- Improved self-awareness: As you have a better understanding of yourself and your abilities, which can lead to higher self-esteem.
- Better relationships: You have better relationships because you are more open to feedback and willing to learn from others.
- Happy to ask “the daft question”: You view learning as a process and so that it’s natural to make mistakes along the way.
- Lower rate of depression: Apparently, you are more likely to be more resilient and are better able to cope with setbacks, which lowers the risk of depression.
- Strengthened confidence: You are more likely to be more confident because you believe that your abilities can be developed through application, dedication…and a bit of graft.
- Better at taking responsibility: You are more likely to take responsibility for your life and less likely to blame others for your problems. You take ownership and control of your situation. You live “above the line”.
Applications in the workplace
Fostering a growth mindset in the workplace can be beneficial for both employees and employers. Strategies that might help include:
- Lead by example: As a leader, it’s essential to model a growth mindset. Show your people that you are open to feedback, willing to learn from mistakes, and curious about new ideas and perspectives. Make yourself vulnerable and embrace failure.
- Encourage continuous learning: It really doesn’t matter what learning it is any learning will do. Provide opportunities for your people to learn new skills and pursue personal and professional development. This can include training programs, workshops, conferences, or even online courses. It could be a simple as shadowing people in different parts of the organisation
- Celebrate mistakes and failures: Like Happy, create a safe space for employees to make mistakes and learn from them. Encourage them to take risks and try new things without fear of failure.
- Foster collaboration and teamwork: Encourage collaboration and teamwork among employees. This can help them learn from each other and develop new skills.
- Recognise and reward growth mindset behaviours: Recognise employees who demonstrate a growth mindset by rewarding them with a “thank you”, recognition and other treats.
These strategies can help create a culture of learning and development in your workplace that encourages employees to grow and improve and the company to meet its goals
The world is changing fast and it isn’t gonna get slower anytime soon, so a growth mindset for your people and your company is likely to create an organisation that is adaptable and capable of change and is therefore much more likely to become a “learning company” that can weather the storms of changes ahead.
It might also just help you lead a better life.
Related tools and ideas
- Feel the fear and do it anyway – Susan Jeffers