We can have both a fixed and a growth mindset – these are a set of beliefs that shape how you make sense of the world and yourself and these beliefs affect how you think, feel, and behave in any given situation.
A fixed mindset is when you believe that your qualities and abilities are ‘fixed’ and static. You think that you are either good at something or you’re not which includes your intelligence, personality, abilities and morals.
This mindset doesn’t recognise effort as you either have the ability or you don’t. You are fearful of trying and failing and of being judged negatively and you may also give up easily as you’ll think that if you don’t have the natural talent, why bother and expose yourself.
If you are naturally talented at something and have a fixed mindset, you might tend to blame others or external events/circumstances if you fail as you can’t bear the idea that it had something to do with you.
In contrast when you have a growth mindset, you’ll believe that your basic qualities and abilities are things that you can cultivate with effort, strategies and help from others. You consider your true potential to be unknown and so spend time getting better and improving yourself.
Having a growth mindset creates a passion for learning and the ability and a love of a challenge. You believe that your abilities and personal qualities can change and you are not afraid of failing as you know that with training, perseverance and help you can achieve anything.
So where does your mindset come from?
Your mindset comes mostly from your environment – your upbringing, family, experiences and influences.
Humans are born with a love for learning – you just need to watch a baby trying to walk as evidence, but the fixed mindset, which can be developed as we grow up, can undo this and we can fall into a limited way of thinking.
Can a person’s mindset change?
Just as someone can grow and develop their intellect, a person is also capable of changing brain functions and their thinking patterns.
According to Dr. Carol Dweck, who first identified fixed and growth mindsets and has published a book on the subject, you can change your mindset from a fixed mindset to one of growth.
Neuroscience shows us that the brain continues to develop and change, even as adults. The brain can be remolded like plastic over time, as new neural pathways form. This has led scientists to identify the tendency of the brain to change through growth and reorganization as ‘neuroplasticity’.
Studies have shown that the brain can grow new connections, strengthen existing ones, suggesting that a person with a fixed mindset can slowly develop a growth mindset.
If you’re interested in developing your growth mindset, here are 7 steps you could take:
1. Realize that, scientifically, you can improve your mindset
One of the most best ways to developing a growth mindset is by understanding our brains are built to grow and learn. By challenging yourself with new experiences, you can strengthen neural connections to ‘rewire’ your brain which, in turn, can make you smarter. You have a choice of which mindset you are going to adopt.
2. Remove the ‘fixed mindset’ inner voice
We all have a negative inner voice that acts against a growth mindset. Be aware of what triggers your fixed mindset – the voice that says that you don’t have what it takes, you’re a failure, you’re struggling, you’re not the person you thought you were, give it up, when you encounter someone who is better than you and you are judging yourself. Try to flip thoughts such as ‘I can’t do this’, to ‘I can do this if I keep practicing’ or I can’t do this to I can’t do this yet to nurture a growth mindset.
3. Reward effort and the process
Although society often rewards those who achieve excellent outcomes, this can work against a growth mindset. Instead, reward the way you have done something and the effort you’ve exerted.
4. Ask for feedback
Try and seek feedback, especially at work. When we are provided with progressive feedback about what we do well and where we can improve, it creates motivation to keep going. Feedback is also associated with a pleasurable dopamine response and enhances a growth mindset.
5. Get out of your comfort zone
Being brave enough to leave your comfort zone can help foster a growth mindset. When faced with a challenge, try to choose the harder option that will allow you to grow as a person.
6. Accept failure as part of the process
Failure, setbacks, and initial confusion are all part of the learning process. When trying something new, see ‘failures’ as positive learning opportunities.
7. Stop judging
Be aware when you are judging yourself and others. Having a growth mindset can give you compassion so don’t punish, write off or threaten yourself or others, give yourself and others a chance to learn and grow.
It’s important to remember that we don’t just have a fixed or a growth mindset, we have both and our mindset can change depending on what we’re doing. Letting go of a fixed mindset can take some time and practice especially if people around you also have a fixed mindset. Strengthening your growth mindset is a gradual life long journey and can lead to you feeling more alive, courageous and open so it’s well worth considering.
If you would like some help to develop your growth mindset, book in for a free coaching call.