When it comes to dealing with hard things in our lives, be it conflict at work, challenges with relationships or facing a new difficult task, we all have different ways of coping and responding.
If you were asked to reprogramme your computer, solve a complex problem on a big project at work or learn a new language, the approach you take to these challenges is likely to vary from other’s approaches because it will depend on the mindset you have.
Research Carol Dweck who is renowned for her work on Mindset explains that there are two types of mindsets that we can adopt, fixed and growth.
This is a mindset that assumes abilities and understanding are relatively fixed. Those with a fixed mindset may not believe that intelligence can be enhanced, or you think that you either “have it or you don’t” when it comes to abilities and talents.
Those with a fixed mindset are often less likely to try things that they might not succeed at and give up more easily when things get hard. You will struggle to believe you are able to make things work so don’t try.
This mindset is “the understanding that abilities and understanding can be developed” (Mindset Works, n.d.). Those with a growth mindset believe that they can get better and more talented through putting in time and effort.
When you have a growth mindset you will be more comfortable making mistakes, seeing errors as an opportunity to learn, can keep going when tasks get difficult and don’t give up easily. You believe that you can do hard things.
If you get negative feedback, it is also more likely that you can separate yourself from it and see if there is anything you can learn from the situation.
While we are all on a continuum, rather than being fully in one camp or the other, when we can adopt a more growth-centered mindset the benefits are huge! It can improve your self-belief and self-esteem, make you more open to learning new skills and seeing opportunities where other people see challenges – great things that can have a positive impact on both your work and personal life.
Growth over fixed, in action!
Here’s an example of how changing your mindset can change the outcome.
You get negative feedback from your manager about a project you have been working on. Your manager thinks you have made some mistakes and that, maybe, you aren’t the right person to work on the project.
Someone with a fixed mindset may decide that their manager is wrong and has no idea what they are talking about and completely ignore the feedback. Alternatively, they might agree with their manager and think “I just can’t do anything right. I don’t have what it takes to be successful, I will step aside.”
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 manager has a point, you could come up with possible solutions to improve your performance and do your best to implement them.
Make it happen
How to embrace a growth-centered mindset
- See failures and mistakes as learning opportunities
- Create a new belief: Tell yourself every day that you are capable and able to do hard things
- Become self-aware: Notice, without judgement, when you are using your talents and strengths and when you come across one of your weaknesses. Awareness is the first stage of change
- Ask questions without worrying about what other people might think
- Be curious and commit to lifelong learning: try to adopt the attitude of a child, looking at the world as if everything is an opportunity
- See challenges as a game to play rather than something to avoid or be afraid of
- Congratulate others for their success. It can be easy to envy others when they do well but aim to be inspired by them rather than view their success as competition. Others’ success doesn’t mean you can’t have your own success.
1 – Review your mindset. Complete this validated questionnaire to get a feel for your current mindset.
2 – Complete this journal over the month (print or edit straight from your device) and reflect, without judgement, on the challenges you face and how you managed them, and what you could do differently next time a similar challenge arises.