Growth mindset is not default. Learn to activate it.
Growth vs. fixed mindsets is not a black-and-white issue.
People think you either have a growth mindset or not.
Many play it safe and put a ‘growth mindset’ into their CV and motivational letters. It simply looks good. But a growth mindset is not about being kind, friendly, and open-minded.
A growth mindset is a process during which you develop new skills. You learn from your failures, get smarter, and collect as much experience as you can.
The growth mindset does not just happen. You need to take yourself on a life-long journey consciously. Yes, that is right. It is a way of living.
Fixed vs. growth mindset research
If you hear that someone has a fixed mindset, what do you think? Perhaps this person is inflexible, stubborn, boring, or always follows rules.
Research suggests that a fixed mindset is often linked to how people learn at school. A group of children was presented with a challenge. Some saw it as a chance to learn and improve their abilities. Others felt attacked and feared failing. They even considered cheating next time to keep their smart status.
The work of Carol Dweck suggests schools are too focused on grades without supporting children to dream big. Now you have an A+, and that matters.
“Are we raising our kids for now or not yet?” - Carol Dweck
If you shift your focus from ‘now’ to ‘not yet', you focus on the process of learning and getting better. Consider the importance of development and prepare children to embrace challenges.
How is it at your job? Do you feel some people need praise and ‘grades’ to feel confident about the job? Some people work hard to be considered talented. While others care more about their learning curve and purpose than being considered a top performer.
The environment makes a difference. It can help children and adults to value effort, and creativity, and build a ‘not yet’ attitude. ‘Not yet’ motivates people to think differently and master their skills.
Tip: Reflect on what makes you happy vs. what makes you insecure. Do you care about immediate results or the process?
Notice your fixed mindset
A fixed mindset holds you back. It is this annoying voice inside your head telling you things like:
You are not good enough for that.
You do not have the talent for that.
Women should not work in this field.
You can’t do that because …
Catch yourself when you have such a weak moment. If you can do it, you will be able to analyze what triggers such feelings.
Was it because you:
Met someone better than you.
Faced a problematic challenge.
Failed to deliver what you promised.
A fixed mindset is a narrow way of thinking. It makes you think you always have to be on top and you can’t show any vulnerability. Many leaders experience a lot of insecurities because they have a fixed mindset.
But the voice inside your head is not you. You can choose to listen to it or not. Try to notice when your fixed voice is talking to you. When you put yourself down. The moment you realize you can choose to ignore it and look at what you experience through a growth lens.
Tip: It needs a will. Do not try to rush it. Especially, when you have lived your whole life with a good grade sticker.
How can you foster a growth mindset?
It is simple - understand that you always have a choice. You can activate your growth.
To learn something new over feeling comfortable with your current experience.
To hear feedback over ignoring it.
Mastery over a ‘good enough’ attitude.
To be willing to fail and restart over giving up.
To embrace challenges rather than avoid them.
A growth mindset does not mean you have to change everything at once. See it as a natural development. If you decide to learn too much, you will be overwhelmed and ultimately stuck.
The right balance is to onboard new challenges when you have the capacity for them. Maybe you will be more proactive during your meeting and speak more next time. Maybe you decide to change your job. A growth mindset is different for every person.
There are questions you can ask yourself when you face trouble or new situations. Try asking yourself the following questions:
How can I deal with a similar situation better in the future?
How can I better communicate when I receive criticism?
Who can I ask next time I feel stuck?
What have I learned from it?
These questions are a simple way to slowly set your mind on the journey. You need to learn to feel comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Find a balance between learning and your comfort zone.
A growth mindset is not about achieving one promotion and your job is done. It is not even about retiring early and being loaded with money. It is a journey with a learning curve that does not end.
Company culture and leadership
Like it is in schools, organizations and teams have a tremendous influence on how people work.
Think if you work in a company with a fixed mindset. Managers do not support the development of their people. They do not believe their teams have the potential. Human capital is not important; numbers are. People are treated like chairs that need to be filled. Fluctuation is high, and talent is scarce.
Companies and teams with a growth mindset value teamwork and creativity and work with the potential of every individual. Psychological safety is high as people cover each other’s backs. Feedback and idea conflicts are welcome.
Company culture runs from top to bottom. Growth values are often mentioned but not lived. Paper values are ridiculous but common.
You may have experienced bored leaders who were uninterested in anything. As long as it stands, there is no problem.
What kind of leader would you choose to be? It is up to you.
Notice what people around you do. You can help others see things with a growth mindset. Together, explore this area, and you will soon see skills and morale rising.
I guarantee your work will become much more interesting.
Dig deeper and read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
Find out when you have a fixed mindset. (When do you hear the inner voice that is holding you back?)
Take on a new challenge next week. Start training your growth muscle.
➡️ Join a 1h online session about the Growth mindset
On the 28th of Feb at 5 pm (CET).
See you next week!
I'll also add that depending on the context and the prior experiences, it is totally normal and OK to switch from one mindset to another, as there is a learning curve and to "unlock" the growth you might need a couple of trials and tests before. Thanks as usual for the write up !