A mindset is a mental attitude that predetermines a person's responses to and interpretations of situations. Research suggests that your mindset can have a profound effect on your motivation and achievement.
Fixed mindset vs. growth mindset
Renowned psychologist Carol Dweck, identified two mindsets; a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe that their qualities and abilities are fixed, whereas people with a growth mindset believe that they can change and grow.
When people believe that their qualities and abilities are fixed, these things are core to their identity and their self-esteem. This leads them to behave in ways that protect their identity and their self-esteem. For example, a person with a fixed mindset may:
- Avoid challenges for fear of failure or looking bad.
- Give up, make excuses or blame others when faced with setbacks.
- Get defensive, angry or feel defeated when faced with criticism.
- Feel jealous or intimidated by the success of others.
A person who believes that they can change and grow, however, doesn't need to protect their self-esteem. They are already aware that they can improve and therefore they have nothing to lose by trying new things, listening to feedback and learning from others.
What a growth mindset is not
It's important to point out that the idea here is not that you can do anything if you put your mind to it - just that you can learn, change and grow if you put in the effort. For example, it's pretty unlikely that any of us will become the next Einstein because we believe we can - but we could certainly learn a bit about physics if we put in the effort.
Adopting a growth mindset
Watch for a fixed mindset reaction when you are faced with a challenge. Do you feel overly anxious? Do you talk yourself out of it rather than talk yourself into it?
Remember that in order to learn you need to challenge yourself and take risks. If you try and you don't succeed, you've still learned something.
Persist through obstacles
Watch for a fixed mindset reaction when you encounter obstacles and face setbacks. Do you feel incompetent or defeated? Do you look for excuses?
Obstacles and setbacks might slow you down, but don't let them stop you. Instead of dwelling on them, think of them as a temporary inconvenience, accept them and focus your energy on how you are going to overcome them.
Be open to feedback
Watch for a fixed mindset reaction when you face criticism. Do you become defensive or angry? Do you get disheartened?
Feedback is an opportunity to learn and improve. Be open to feedback from all sources.
Learn from the success of others
Watch for a fixed mindset reaction when you see someone you think is better or more successful than you at something you value. Do you feel jealous? Do you feel threatened?
Rather than seeing their success as a threat, think of it as an opportunity to learn. What makes them so good/successful? How did they get there? What strategies did they use?
You are not going to have a growth mindset all of the time. Almost everyone feels anxious, intimidated, deflated or jealous from time-to-time. The important thing is to be conscious of your reactions and acknowledge that you’re in a fixed mindset and that you need to shift out of it.