Growth or Fixed Mindset. How Is Your Mindset Set Up?
Do you know what children have in common at an early age? Their minds are endless, they literally know no limits. In addition to being able to enjoy the little things, they are able to enjoy every emotion as they see fit and live in the present.
A very important characteristic of a child’s mind is its ability to work with failure. Such a mindset helps children develop new skills, explore new solutions, come up with new strategies and, most importantly, dream of something bigger.
Over time, however, many people stop believing in themselves due to the occasional shaming, comparing (“It is embarrassing that you still don’t know how to use a knife and fork, Tom has been able to do that for a long time now”) or embarrassment. They see every setback as a threat of a possible failure, for which they will feel ashamed, for which they will be negatively judged by someone. The feeling of “not being enough” has a great power to drain our growth mindset and gradually turn it into a fixed mindset.
Approach to life setbacks
Failure may hurt. It can prevent us from learning from our mistakes, but it is also a powerful mechanism for accepting new challenges. Our minds play a very prominent role in how we approach the negative events in our lives. What we think of ourselves and our abilities determines how we act and live our lives.
How do you see successful people or those who have achieved something in life? Are they more gifted than others, are they talented, did their innate abilities make them successful or do you believe that their success is the result of hard work, developing new strategies, drawing inspiration from others, investing in learning and continuous improvement?
You will achieve what you believe in.
The conscious or unconscious way, in which you choose to interpret your experiences, can determine the limits for what you can achieve. If you adopt a growth mindset and see your failures or setbacks as an opportunity for personal growth, you will become more resilient to challenging circumstances with uncertain outcomes.
Two types of thinking
Let's first get familiar with the concept of 2 types of mindset by Carol Dweck, a researcher at Stanford University.
It was she who came up with the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset.
People with fixed mindsets are limited by their faith and thoughts. They believe that people are born with a special talent and each person has different abilities and intelligence that they cannot improve with time, perseverance and effort. You can hear them say things like: "It's not going to get any better".
They see failures as an affirmation of their insufficient intelligence and their limited abilities, which prevent them from achieving their goals. They easily succumb to the fear of failure and believe they cannot improve. You may know a few people like that around you. I could definitely count a few.
On the other hand, a person with a growth mindset finds freedom in their thoughts and beliefs. They understand that some people have special talents and that the level of intelligence differs among people, but it is also something that can be developed and improved through effort and hard work.
They enjoy the learning process that is part of the search for new information, creating new strategies and drawing inspiration from others. They see difficulties and challenges as a means for development of new skills and growth.
Beliefs of people with a fixed mindset:
- Talents, abilities and intelligence are fixed.
- They avoid challenges and new experiences.
- They give up quickly when they fail at something.
- They want to look smart, they are afraid of making mistakes.
- They feel threatened by the success of others.
- They base their self-esteem on affirmation from their surroundings.
- They are afraid of failure and scared to take healthy risks.
- They may tend to resort to deception and lies.
Beliefs of people with a growth mindset:
- Talents, abilities and intelligence can be developed through effort and practice.
- They are capable of deep self-reflection and have a desire to learn from their own mistakes.
- They accept challenges as a means for improvement.
- They have perseverance and know how to face failures.
- The success of others inspires them.
- They know how to receive criticism as an opportunity to learn.
- They focus on the process and learning without worrying about the outcome.
- They are open to cooperation and innovation.
How to start up a growth mindset?
There are many different tips and methods, and we will now introduce a few of them in detail.
Change the way you talk to yourself
Whenever we encounter difficult problems or situations, the way they are interpreted and responded to is based on how we communicate to ourselves. Do you talk to yourself nicely or do you find yourself under the attack of self-criticism?
The first step that leads to a growth mindset is learning to stop yourself at that moment, choose to which mindset you want to give space, and change the tone you use when speaking to yourself:
Do not say:
- I am not good at that
- I can’t do it
- I don’t have the ability to learn this
- It is better to stick to what I know
- I give up
- This is frustrating
- I am who I am
- This is hard
Try it this way:
- I can do this
- I want to try it
- I want to explore new ideas
- I believe in myself
- It is OK to fail
- I can learn from my mistakes
- I don’t know yet
Focus on the process instead of performance
Imagine a hypothetical situation: Your friend received a very attractive job offer. A nice salary, a beautiful company car, benefits in the form of various spas and social events. One would say that she had it all. After two years at work, she realized that she had not used any of these amazing benefits except for the car. Her strong orientation at results and achieving greater and better results did not bring her much more than exhaustion.
She needed to realize that if she was to be happy at work, she needed to enjoy the actual process - talking to her colleagues, whom she tended to overlook, setting the necessary limits for her workload, spending free time with her family etc. All this is a process. And the process is essential to the result. If you do not pay enough attention to it, the desire to prove something will eventually engulf you completely. That also comes with the stress of things not going according to plan.
Let’s look at other examples:
- Instead of setting a goal to lose 10 kg, let’s focus on eating healthy every day.
- Instead of setting a goal to become the director of a company, focus your attention on improving your managerial skills and leadership.
- Instead of the goal of winning a marathon race, commit to going for an enjoyable jog every day.
- Commit to learning and improving every day, as opposed to achieving goals that prove your worth. It's nice to have goals, but it is important to enjoy the journey to achieving them rather than to suffer through them.
Become friends with failure
Failure will teach us what success cannot. Instead of running away from your failures and giving up, you should use your failures by reviewing them, determining what did not work, and coming up with a plan for fixing your mistakes.
As soon as you set up your mindset to see failure as a means for learning and growth instead of considering them embarrassing and a limitation of your abilities, you will be able to gain everything you can from every failure.
Source: DWECK, C.: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballantine Books, 2007, ISBN: 978-0345472328.
Author of the article: Nikola Šraibová