There are two types of mindsets we can foster.
- Fixed Mindset
- Growth Mindset
Over 30 years ago, Dr Carol Dweck and her colleagues became interested in students’ attitudes to failure. They noticed that some students bounced back while other students seemed devastated by even the smallest setbacks. After studying the behaviour of thousands of children, Dr Dweck coined the terms ‘fixed mindset’ and ‘growth mindset’ to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence.
Dweck, a Prof. of Psychology at Standford University, says:
“In a fixed mindset, students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset, students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”
When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Therefore, they put in extra time and effort which leads to higher aptitude.
People who believe that they can increase their intelligence through effort and challenge actually get smarter and do better in school, work, and life, over time. They know that mental exercise makes their brains grow smarter — the same way that exercise makes an athlete stronger and faster. And they are always learning new ways to work smart and build their brains.
A Growth Mindset can be Developed
Individuals who believe that their skills can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts). This is because they worry less about looking smart and they put more energy into learning. When entire companies embrace a growth mindset, their employees report feeling far more empowered and committed. In contrast, people at primarily fixed-mindset companies report more of only one thing: cheating and deception among employees, presumably to gain an advantage in the talent race.
It’s hard work, but individuals and organisations can gain a lot by deepening their understanding of growth-mindset concepts and the processes for putting them into practice. It gives them a richer sense of who they are, what they stand for, and how they want to move forward.
Dweck warns of the dangers of praising intelligence as it puts children in a fixed mindset, and they will not want to be challenged because they will not want to look stupid or make a mistake. She notes, “Praising children’s intelligence harms motivation and it harms performance.”
“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”
Dweck found that at the heart of what makes the growth mindset so appealing, is that it creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval. Its distinctive feature is the conviction that human qualities like intelligence and creativity, and even relational capacities like love and friendship, can be cultivated through effort and deliberate practice. Not only are people with this mindset not discouraged by failure, but they don’t actually see themselves as failing in those situations — they see themselves as learning.
What’s the best way to get started with growth mindset?
One way is to identify where you may have fixed mindset tendencies so that you can work to become more growth minded.