The term growth mindset was coined by Dr. Carol Dweck, an American Psychologist, and author. While studying students‘ attitudes towards failure, Dweck and her team noticed that some children bounced back quickly after failure, while other students were devastated, however, small the setback. After studying thousands of children, the team found that those who believed they could get more intelligent and improve, put in extra time and effort, leading to higher achievement. They called this way of thinking and set of beliefs, a “growth mindset”. But what does having a growth mindset actually mean for the rest of us and how can we use it to succeed in our careers?
What Having a Growth Mindset Actually Means Plus Examples
So what does it actually mean when someone has a growth mindset and how can you tell?
Having a growth mindset means you’re the kind of person that believes in continual learning and development because you believe you can improve your skills and increase your intelligence.
“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”
People with growth mindsets are always looking for learning opportunities. They see failure as something to learn and grow from and are resilient.
Having a growth mindset means being able to take criticism well, learning from mistakes and failures, and overcoming obstacles. What’s more, when others succeed, rather than feeling threatened or upset, the person with a growth mindset is inspired and motivated.
Having a growth mindset at work looks like:
- Listening to criticism, learning from it, and making changes to improve things
- Continually looking for ways to improve, for example, learning how your colleagues do things and implementing their best practices
- Learning new skills and practicing and developing in areas of weakness
- Taking on tasks that will stretch you and put you outside of your comfort zone
- Not being afraid to try new strategies and new ways of working
Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset
- In a growth mindset, people believe that intelligence and talents can be improved through effort and learning.
- In a fixed mindset, people believe that their intelligence is fixed and static.
Compared to someone with a growth mindset, someone with a fixed mindset believes their abilities and intelligence are innate and that they can’t improve upon their talents and intelligence. Because of this, if you have a fixed mindset you don’t push yourself as hard to keep learning and growing.
There are lots of disadvantages of a fixed mindset. vs a growth mindset. When you have a fixed mindset:
- You take criticism personally and don’t learn from it
- You don’t spend much time on learning new things and instead focus on past accomplishments
- You feel threatened by other people’s successes
- You let fear of failure stop you from taking action
Why Having a Growth Mindset Important For Success
It’s clear to see why a growth mindset is important for success since there are so many benefits to having a growth mindset.
There will be setbacks, there will be challenges and you will need to get out of your comfort zone and learn new things if you’re to progress.
Having a growth mindset makes all of this easier.
By having a growth mindset you overcome challenges and rebound from setbacks. You also see challenges as learning opportunities.
Having a growth mindset means you think differently:
- Instead of I can’t do this, you think, I can’t do this yet
- Instead of they’re better than me at speaking, you think how can I become as good as them at speaking
- Instead of thinking I was born this way, you think, we can achieve anything we want, this is just my starting point
What’s more, studies have shown that having a growth mindset improves motivation and academic performance.
If you have a growth mindset, there’s always a chance, you can always improve and the possibilities are endless.
The Science Behind Growth Mindset
Since Dr. Dweck and her team made their discoveries, research in the field of neuroscience has shown that with practice, neural networks grow new connections, strengthen existing ones, and build insulation that speeds the transmission of impulses, a process called neuroplasticity. This happens even in adults. The good news is, that this suggests that it is possible to develop a growth mindset, so if you have a fixed mindset, you’re not doomed to failure.
How To Develop a Growth Mindset
If you want to develop a growth mindset, some of the following strategies might help. Like all change, it will be difficult in the beginning, but remember things get easier and more comfortable over time, so stick with it.
Ask for constructive feedback and try to focus on the learning points
When that inner fixed mindset monster shows up, saying you can’t do something, or you’re not good at something, remember that this is a temporary situation and remind yourself that you can improve
Change your language, and become focused on opportunities, and possibilities, rather than limitations. Use language that is can-do and positive vs defeatist.
Remember the science. Your brain likes to learn. It’s what it’s built for. And remember neuroplasticity. Think of your brain as a muscle and treat it as such.
Given the clear benefits of having a growth mindset, it makes sense to try to shift your mindset more in this direction.
Having a Growth mindset can improve things not just in your career, but since your attitude is so powerful and impacts every aspect of your life, taking steps to develop a growth mindset will improve your overall outlook and experience of life in general.
You will ultimately have better career prospects, feel less stressed and anxious, feel better about yourself, feel more motivated when working towards your goals and you’ll be less affected by a failure.