Earlier this week, we discussed the Growth Mindset developed by Carol Dweck PhD. Let’s do a quick recap.
According to Dweck’s research, we typically approach a challenge in one of two ways:
- Fixed Mindset: the belief that our intelligence and talent are fixed and we must constantly prove ourselves, therefore a challenge is seen as the evidence that we are not smart/talented enough and that this is why we are experiencing the challenge.
- Growth Mindset: the belief that our intelligence and talent can grow and we must work it out like a muscle to become better, therefore a challenge is seen as an opportunity to exercise so that we can become stronger, smarter and more talented.
The Growth Mindset helps us to access new levels of success by bringing back a love for learning and it has yielded results in the classroom, in the boardroom and in sports.
On an intellectual level, we all know that feedback and criticism helps to point out our blind spots and can make our work or our performance better however on an operational level, it can be difficult to receive and incorporate.
So how can the Growth Mindset help us with feedback from bosses, coworkers, suppliers or clients?
Breaking out of the Fixed Mindset
Many of us learned the Fixed Mindset early in life. We were either naturally inclined towards it or developed it form our surroundings. Let’s use the example of the transition to university to illustrate how it operates.
Student A was not accepted to their first choice school. This student may consider themselves as a failure or hear it from their parents, their teachers or their classmates. Student B got into their school of choice but realized in their first classes they don’t know the subject matter. They too think of themselves as a failure or hear it from another student who finds the class easy. Both Student A and Student B are now trapped in this mindset because they interpreted their situation as their identity: “I am a failure”. When we are in a frame of mind where we think “I am a failure”, we close off the possibility of finding solutions because we think the problem is within us.
Dweck points out that the shift in thinking can take place when we factor in time. When we are in the Fixed Mindset, we expect the thing we want to already be present. Student A wants to be accepted to their first choice school now and Student B wants to know all the course material now. Both students can adopt the Growth Mindset and shift their thinking to “I am not in my first choice school yet” or “I do not know the course material yet“.
By just adding this small word “yet”, it opens a world of possibilities. Student A who did not get into their first choice school “yet” has options: they can see if there is a waiting list they can get on or ask if they can do an extra credit project. They can ask to have their application reviewed or go to their second choice school, work hard, and later transfer into their first choice school. Student B who does not know the course material “yet” can ask the professor if there is any background reading they can do or find a buddy who understands the material better and form a study group with other classmates.
Adopting the Growth Mindset
Everyone is on a spectrum. Some people already use a Growth Mindset approach, some have a Growth Mindset in a hobby for example but not when it comes to work, and some experience a Fixed Mindset all the time.
The most important part of adopting a Growth Mindset is action.
A good resource that can help in adopting the Growth Mindset and promote learning is a mentor. This is especially true in a work setting, where we may not have much time or many opportunities to try again. Your mentor can be inside or outside your organization and is ideally someone who is already good at what you want to learn. They can be a great help to give you cues, pointers or share similar experiences. I wrote about how to make the most of a mentoring relationship in one of my previous articles.
Another key factor in adopting the Growth Mindset is to take a positive approach to effort and learning. Feedback is a chance to see something that we weren’t able to see before and putting in the effort to learn and grow makes us more whole, better versions of ourselves. It also helps us to build tools to better handle similar situations in the future.
To learn more
If my articles about the Growth Mindset have piqued your curiosity, I recommend reading Dweck’s book Mindset: the new psychology of success or checking out her Ted Talk or her Google Talk. Her research has been influential in all areas from the classroom to parenting, from elite sports to business and has served as the source material for many other talks and books across a wide variety of fields.