A few years ago, I sat in a conference room waiting for the next speaker. I did not know her, and certainly did not know how much the next hour would impact me and the work that I do with organizations.
Carol Dweck is a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and is known for her work on Mindset. Very simply, Dweck wondered … why do people with seemingly similar talent, often end up achieving different levels of performance (and well-being)? The difference, Dweck’s research has demonstrated, comes down to a difference in Mindset.
Mindset is a mental attitude that determines how you will interpret and respond to situations in your life. Some people have a Fixed Mindset, the belief that abilities and talents are fixed at birth. Just like eye colour, people with this Mindset believe that you are born with certain talents and abilities and there is not much you can do to change that. Other people have a Growth Mindset, the belief that talent and abilities can be developed. People with this Mindset believe that these qualities are more like a muscle – and hard work can develop your skills and abilities, and that you can make your brain stronger.
Some of the key differences between the mindsets are shown in the visual below:
It is important to keep in mind that you can have different Mindsets for different things. For example, you can have a Growth Mindset about your ability to learn in school, and a Fixed Mindset about your ability to perform in team sports (which was the case for me…which is why my Fixed Mindset about team sports left me with extra time to pursue other “activities” like smoking behind the school, rather than trying to learn and improve at team sports!)
The research is clear; you perform better, are more motivated, are more resilient to change, and are happier overall, when you have a Growth Mindset.
Applying effort, struggling, and challenging yourself actually strengthens the connections between neurons in your brain and leads you to become ‘smarter’ (improving your overall talents and abilities).
Here are some things you can do to begin to foster a Growth Mindset:
- Choose to believe that talent can be developed.
- View effort as useful, because it leads to growth.
- Embrace challenges and persevere; frame them as opportunities to learn.
- Be curious and engage with others; ask them about their strategies so you can learn from them.
- Use mistakes to help you learn.
- Ask for, appreciate, and use feedback from others.
I know this seems simple on the surface. “Of course I have a Growth Mindset!” you might be thinking! I encourage you to pause…and reflect.
My experience is that the Mindset is deeply ingrained in you…and being mindful to your thoughts and reactions will help you identify where and when you might have a Fixed versus a Growth Mindset.
For example, when you see someone else succeed, do you feel resentful and threatened (Fixed) or do you celebrate that person’s success – become inspired by it (Growth)?
When you make a mistake, are you tempted to hide it or to blame someone else (Fixed) or do you own the mistake, learn from it and share that learning with others (Growth)?
When someone offers you feedback, do you become defensive (Fixed) or do you see the feedback as an opportunity to learn and grow (Growth)?
Pay attention…the voice in your head is speaking to you…what is it saying?
Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker, Author, and Organizational consultant, Deri works with organizations who want to create happy and healthy workplaces for increased positivity, productivity and prosperity!