I have just commenced working with a team who are going through a tremendous amount of change. Based on initial conversations with the team and each individual, it is obvious that some are stuck in the mud. They see the change as a threat to the way they have done things for many years and are worried that all the skills and abilities they have developed and demonstrated in the work place up to now will be for nothing. They see the change as scary and are either in denial or active resistance about the imminent changes and are worried about how they will manage to learn all the new requirements of their roles. However other team members are somewhat excited about the opportunity the change will offer to them. They are hoping they might be able to learn new things, work with new clients and be challenged in new ways. They seem much more open to exploring the change and what it has to offer.
When embracing the challenges that life often throws our way, we need to consider what mindset we are firmly entrenched in. Do we believe in our ability to grow and change or do we believe we have fixed characteristics and intelligence? Do we have a fixed or a growth mindset?
A growth mindset is “the understanding that abilities and understanding can be developed” Those with a growth mindset believe that they can get smarter, more intelligent, and more talented through putting in time and effort.
On the flipside, a fixed mindset is one that assumes abilities and understanding are relatively fixed. Those with a fixed mindset may not believe that intelligence can be enhanced, or typically believe that you either “have it or you don’t” when it comes to abilities and talents.
What’s the Main Difference?
The main difference between the two mindsets is the belief in the permanence of intelligence and ability; one views it as very permanent, with little to no room for change in either direction, while the other views it as more changeable, with opportunities for improvement (or, for that matter, regression).
This difference in mindset may lead to marked differences in behaviour as well. If someone believes intelligence and abilities are immutable traits, they are not likely to put in much effort to change their inherent intelligence and abilities. On the other hand, those who believe they can change these traits may be much more willing to put in extra time and effort to achieve more ambitious goals. With a growth mindset, individuals may achieve more than others because they are worrying less about seeming smart or talented and putting more of their energy into learning (Dweck, 2016).
We can see examples of a fixed and a growth mindset every day in our workplaces. Consider going into a meeting with your boss and you receive negative feedback. Your boss thinks you aren’t putting in enough effort, or you’re making too many mistakes, or that you’re simply not competent enough to handle your current project. Someone with a fixed mindset may decide that their boss has no idea what she’s talking about and completely ignore the feedback. Alternatively, they might agree with their boss and think “I just can’t do anything right. I don’t have what it takes to be successful.”
A growth mindset response would be to seriously consider this feedback, evaluate it as objectively as possible, and seek out more information and/or another opinion to compare. If your boss has a point, you would come up with possible solutions to improve your performance and do your best to implement them.
Or what about if you are assigned a daunting new task at work it can be tempting to think “I’m not good at this kind of stuff. It’s just not my strong suit!” You might be right that it’s not one of your strengths, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn it. A fixed mindset will take this self-defeating thought and run with it, concluding that there’s no point in putting all that much effort into something that just isn’t your cup of tea. On the other hand, a growth mindset will see this new challenge as an opportunity to grow and learn new things. Someone with this mindset might think, “I can figure this out. What do I need to do to get my skills at the right level? Are there classes I can take? People I can ask for help? Any other resources that might help?”
The growth mindset will lead you to new skills, new knowledge, and new areas of expertise, while the fixed mindset will leave you about where you started—with little skill in the task at hand and little confidence in your abilities.
But How Do You Change Your Mindset
I was reading a recent article by Courtney Akerman and she suggests there are eight general approaches for developing the foundation of a growth mindset:
1. Create a new compelling belief: a belief in yourself, in your own skills and abilities, and in your capacity for positive change.
2. View failure in a different light: see failure as an opportunity to learn from your experiences and apply what you have learned next time around.
3. Cultivate your self-awareness: work on becoming more aware of your talents, strengths, and weaknesses; gather feedback from those who know you best and put it together for a comprehensive view of yourself.
4. Be curious and commit to lifelong learning: try to adopt the attitude of a child, looking at the world around you with awe and wonderment; ask questions and truly listen to the answers.
5. Get friendly with challenges: know that if you mean to accomplish anything worthwhile, you will face many challenges on your journey; prepare yourself for facing these challenges, and for failing sometimes.
6. Do what you love and love what you do: it’s much easier to succeed when you are passionate about what you’re doing; whether you cultivate love for what you already do or focus on doing what you already love, developing passion is important.
7. Be tenacious: it takes a lot of hard work to succeed, but it takes even more than working hard—you must be tenacious, weathering obstacles and getting back up after each time you fall.
8. Inspire and be inspired by others: it can be tempting to envy others when they succeed, especially if they go farther than you, but it will not help you to succeed; commit to being an inspiration to others and use the success of others to get inspiration as well (Zimmerman, 2016).
Follow these 8 principles and you will find it hard to have anything but a growth mindset! You can see Courtney’s full article here.
For more specific techniques you can use to start building a growth mindset now, try these 25 suggestions from Saga Briggs (2015):
· Acknowledge and embrace your imperfections; don’t hide from your weaknesses.
· View challenges as opportunities for self-improvement.
· Try different learning tactics and strategies; don’t consider any strategies one-size-fits-all.
· Keep up on the research on brain plasticity to continually encourage the growth mindset.
· Replace the word “failing” with the word “learning” in your vocabulary.
· Stop seeking approval for others, and prioritize learning over approval.
· Value the learning process over the end result.
· Cultivate a sense of purpose, and keep things in perspective.
· Celebrate your growth with others, and celebrate their growth as well.
· Emphasize learning well over learning quickly.
· Reward actions instead of traits.
· Redefine “genius” as hard work plus talent, rather than talent alone.
· Give constructive criticism, and accept criticism of your own work as constructive.
· Disassociate improvement from failure; “room for improvement” does not mean “failure.”
· Reflect on your learning regularly.
· Reward hard work before talent or inherent ability.
· Emphasize the relationship between learning and “brain training;” like any other muscle, the brain can be trained.
· Cultivate your grit (determination and perseverance).
· Abandon the idea of succeeding on talent alone; recognize that it will always take some work as well.
· Use the phrase “not yet” more often, as in, “I haven’t mastered it yet.”
· Learn from the mistakes that others make.
· Make a new goal for every goal you accomplish; never stop striving towards your goals.
· Take risks and be vulnerable with others.
· Think realistically about how much time and effort your goal will take.
· Take ownership of your own attitude and take pride in your developing growth mindset.
Want to know more about developing a growth mindset? Contact me to discuss coaching to assist you on this journey at firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner. Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness and mindset to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.