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You’ve most likely heard the term “Growth Mindset” before, perhaps on your favorite Youtube
channel or maybe even from your friends who never seem bogged down by anything, but you
might be wondering what exactly it is and how so many CEOs, entrepreneurs, and everyday
people are using it to get what they want. Let’s take a moment to discuss this basic principle and how you can use it in your day to day life.
What is it?
Growth Mindset is the frame of mind of becoming. Basically, the tenet of this mindset is that if
you aren’t something that you want to be in the future, for instance the best in your class or top performer at work, you can become that and anything else through effort. Growth mindset views failures as temporary that can be overcome with hard work, and that talent isn’t limited but can be gained through effort. Although, to clearly define Growth Mindset we need to also define its opposite- Fixed Mindset. With Fixed Mindset people believe what they are capable of now is all they will be capable of in the future. They view talent as limited and failure as a final verdict on what can be accomplished.
Why does it exist? How did it become popular?
A behavioral researcher at Stanford by the name of Carol Dweck carried out several
experiments on children. Wait... that sounds bad, but go with me on this. In early 2007 Dweck
studied several groups of children by giving them tasks that were a little too difficult for them to accomplish. She found that one group of children, when faced with failure, would give responses such as “ I was hoping this would be informative” or “ I like a challenge.” The other group of children however, after having failed the task, responded with rather wanting to “cheat next time” or “find a group less smarter than them.” Dweck discovered that from the earliest ages we are primed into one of two belief systems regarding personal potential and that those beliefs were also tied to identity.
For instance, are you the kind of person that can work harder and get smarter or are you smart? This question might be a silly one on its face value, but the way you answered this question is key. The difference between the two statements is that one is tied to how you view your identity and the other how you view your effort. If I’m smart, then a test or a performance evaluation that says I’ve failed is a direct attack on my identity of being a “smart person”, but if I view myself through effort then that means the same evaluation is simply a marker of where I can improve.
Do you need it?
So, do you really need a Growth Mindset? I mean you’ve gotten this far without it, right? Well, if you’re a ruthlessly optimistic powerhouse of a person you probably already employ it, even if you weren’t aware that's what you were doing. However, if you’re like the rest of us who
struggle with the continual apocalypse or the abysmal state of the world, and perhaps have gotten knocked around a bit on your personal journey, Growth Mindset could be exactly what you’re missing.
How to use it?
If you’re looking to add a little more mental fortitude to your daily routine, here are a few quick tips to build growth mindset:
When encountering a failure or setback, take a deep breath. it's easy to encounter a downward spiral of negativity when you're in your emotions. Allowing yourself a moment of clarity and a change to distance yourself from the sting of disappointment is key.
Realize that it's not always your fault. Separating out what is and is not within your control is a self-compassionate way to identify any areas you can improve on, while also acknowledging that success is possible for you in the future.
Don't give up when things get tough. look for opportunities for growth instead. Jay Z is famously quoted as saying "The genius thing we did was not give up." And he's right! That is a form of genius. Dweck's own studies have also shown us that neuroplasticity- the ability of the brain to form her connections and pathway - is stimulated by Growth Midset. When faced with things that don't go your way, get creative and look for work-arounds. Your brain will thank you later.
Praise the process. This last step should actually come before the first. Celebrating milestones during the process allows your brain to associate the journey and effort with positive emotions. This means you can view the hard work and development along the way as the true reward versus the achievement of the goal. Any setbacks towards that goal will also be seen as just that, temporary setbacks. Things that can be overcome and targeted in the future to get you closer to where you need to be. So, buy yourself that margarita or phone a friend to yell yay with you over that positive review, and take time to enjoy the small wins as you go.
Growth Mindset is a mental framework of viewing obstacles as inevitable stepping stones to
further success. Fixed Mindset is the perspective that talent and success is limited and failure is a permanent indicator of how far you can go. Look for ways you can improve when you encounter setbacks and identify them to yourself as temporary and not permanent. Celebrate the journey as you work towards any goal, taking time to praise your small wins along the way. These tools will get you started on that mental glow up that will have everyone asking “What’s their secret to success?”