A growth mindset is the belief that abilities and skills can be developed, that a conscious effort to strengthen and improve our abilities will increase them. In contrast, a fixed mindset is the belief that our abilities are fixed and regardless of effort, can’t be changed.
It’s possible to have a growth mindset towards some aspects of life and a fixed mindset in others. If you recognise a fixed mindset in your life and would like to transform it to one of growth, practice cultivating these seven habits for a growth mindset:
1) Don’t be deterred by negativity.
When you make a commitment to change old habits, guard against being sidetracked or demotivated by negative comments. Constructive criticism can be helpful but it’s just as important to develop and listen to your own inner, growth mindset, voice. Filter the feedback you receive from yourself and others and decide whether it comes from a place of growth or a fixed mindset. Consider how you would encourage a friend or colleague if they were embarking on a new learning experience and coach yourself in the same way.
2) Envison a positive outcome.
Psychologist Walter Mischel, creator of the most famous willpower study, the marshmallow test, established that the ability to focus on the positive feelings you will experience when you have reached your goal, is a crucial factor for success. Develop a clear and vivid picture of what your success will look like. Envision how good you will feel when you have mastered your new skill or subject and maintain a clear focus on your desired outcome.
3) Consider the impact of your words.
Ask yourself what impact your words have on those around you. Do you adopt a growth mindset in your relationships and encourage others to learn, develop and grow? If not, take some time to think of ways in which you can improve your interactions with others at work and home to encourage a growth mindset culture.
4. Take on new challenges wholeheartedly.
Don’t avoid tasks that you have felt unable to master in the past. Challenging tasks allow you to develop new skills and abilities. Neurologist, Dr. Harry Chugani, describes the synaptic connections which occur in the brain during the learning process as being similar to roads. Chugani explains, “Roads with the most traffic get widened. The ones that are rarely used fall into disrepair.” New or difficult tasks are an opportunity to develop new skills and build new synaptic connections, with practice both will strengthen and improve your performance.
5. Celebrate your successes.
Your belief in your abilities has a direct impact on your motivation to try new things, persevere and fulfil your potential. Make time to acknowledge and celebrate your successes. Recognise the hard work that has enabled you to learn a new skill or excel in an existing area of interest. When you embark on a new learning curve, remember previous achievements that involved the learning process and remind yourself that having a growth mindset helped you to achieve success.
6. Don’t view failure as all defining.
Avoid the fixed mindset trap by learning to view failure as a temporary setback rather than regarding it as being all defining. People with a growth mindset still experience failure and disappointment but don’t allow setbacks to deter them from their goals. When things don’t go as planned take a growth mindset approach and focus on what you can do differently next time to improve performance.
7. Be open to new information and experiences.
A fixed mindset literally switches us off to learning. Carol Dweck, the world leader in growth mindset theory, asked individuals with either a fixed or growth mindset a set of complex questions. Dweck then studied participants levels of brain activity whilst feedback was provided on whether their answers were correct. Dweck found that participants with a fixed mindset only showed interest when they were being told if they’d answered the questions correctly. The level of brain activity dialled down when more information about an incorrect question was provided. A fixed mindset prevented subjects from learning new information. In contrast, the growth mindset participants maintained a high level of brain activity throughout the feedback process and subsequent tests revealed they had learned more than those who approached the same test with a fixed mindset. Dweck’s research shows the importance of remaining open to new experiences and information, when we do so our neurons fire and wire together, developing our skills and abilities with a growth mindset.
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