The Growth Mindset: What It Is and How to Develop It

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The growth mindset became popular and spread quickly in schools and the workplace when renowned psychologist Carol Dweck showed how it is linked to success. Previously, it was generally believed that people with high IQs or talent had better chances to become successful, be it in school or at work.

The Two Types of Mindsets

Dweck’s research has changed all that. According to her, one’s capabilities and achievement of goals do not hinge on raw intelligence. People who believe that they are innately brainy or not and rely on this inherited trait to determine their success or failure have “fixed mindsets.” On the other end are the people who think that intelligence and abilities can be further developed and honed. This is the attitude of a person who has a “growth mindset,” and this type of perspective is being encouraged in the academic and work environment as well as for parents in bringing up their children.

Columbia University

A person’s mindset is shaped during childhood by the parents, teachers and other adults significant in the child’s life. Children who are constantly being told that they are smart or dumb develop a fixed mindset and assume that they are stuck with their genes. They then seek validation from others and focus on preserving their image to their own detriment. If you believe you are smart, you protect that self-image by avoiding challenges because a failure will negate the smartness you were born with. Similarly, if you grew up convinced that you are dumb, you will not exert any effort to study or work harder because it will be a futile attempt. In both cases, the fixed mindset is a setback to any effort to learn and improve one’s self.  Consequently, you are not motivated to achieve your goals because either way, your intelligence will work by itself or your incapacity blocks your efforts to attain that goal.

A growth mindset is based on the belief that a person’s qualities can change and his intelligence and abilities can be enhanced and improved upon, with effort and learning. While it is true that IQs are genetic, i.e. some people have higher intelligence quotients than others, courtesy of their DNA, this reality does not discourage them from aiming higher, working harder and improving the self through learning. Growth-minded people accept challenges, try different approaches to learning and persevere in their efforts in order to achieve their goals.

How to Develop the Growth Mindset

If, after reading about mindsets, you realize that you have the fixed mindset attitude, don’t lose hope. Developing a growth mindset isn’t only for young people and children. No matter what age you are, you can shift to a growth mentality with these strategies:

  • Change your perception of your intelligence as an innate capacity to one that can be developed.

The first step to moving towards having a growth mindset is to accept and recognize the truth that the intelligence you were born with will not guarantee success in your studies or your career. Achieving a goal, whether it’s high grades or a higher position at work is possible through effort. If you catch yourself having thoughts like “I’m smart so I don’t need to study as hard as the other students,” or “I’m a dumb person, no matter how hard I try, I will never get it,” stop and say to yourself, “I can do better if I work at it.”

Effort Success

  • Go beyond simply praising effort.

In developing a growth mindset, you have learned that it’s about praising the effort and not the trait. It’s saying, “I got good grades because I made the effort to study hard” and not “I got good grades because I’m smart. “ But that’s not enough. If your efforts didn’t produce the desired effect, you should not stop and say, “Well, that’s it. I did my best.” Dweck recommends identifying and learning new approaches and seeking help from others until you find the strategy that is most effective. Efforts that do not bear fruits are useless exercises. The bottom line should be on the process of learning and improving to obtain the desired outcome.

  • View risks and failures as challenges and opportunities for improvement.

Having adopted the growth mindset does not assure you of success in all your endeavors. Giving it all you’ve got and still failing should not be a setback to your goal nor discourage you from having future ambitions and dreams. Treat failures as challenges to learn from the experience and develop resiliency and perseverance. It should also prod you into discovering what you might have missed and searching for better methods to attain your objective.

Related Reading:

How to Focus at Work in the Age of Distractions

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