The #1 habit you must cultivate to be successful: Growth Mindset

The #1 habit you must cultivate to be successful: Growth Mindset. Changes come at furious rates, and to succeed in business in a climate like this, you must be willing and open to change.  How you view feedback, criticism and opportunities for growth are critical to the success of your improvement efforts, and the ability of your company to adapt, grow and flourish. If you feel you could improve in this area, read on to learn how to change!

To be able to change, to welcome feedback, and to keep your mind “unstuck” is a skill that can be learned, practiced and refined. This skill is called having a growth mindset.  The theory of growth mindset and fixed mindset comes from the brilliant psychologist and researcher, Dr. Carol Dweck.  Dr. Dweck has spent her career writing and researching these two mindsets, and I recommend her ground-breaking book to everyone (Dweck, 2008). Let’s explore the theory briefly. You’ll find it elegant and powerful.

Dweck’s Growth Mindset Theory

In Dweck’s theory, the world is divided into two groups, people who have a fixed mindset, and people who have a growth mindset.  Of course, the world can be divided into two groups many ways:  cat lovers and dog lovers, Star Wars or Star Trek, loves sushi/ would never try it. Dweck’s theory is elegant in its simplicity. I believe she has tapped into a way of looking at yourself and others that can help us understand ourselves and our colleagues, spouses, and children.

To find out what kind of mindset you have, read the following four statements and keep track of the ones with which you agree.

  1.     Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t change very much.
  2.     You can learn new things but you can’t really change how intelligent you are.
  3.     No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it quite a bit.
  4.     You can always substantially change how intelligent you are.

Fixed mindset

These questions come right out of Dweck’s book Mindset (2008, pp. 12-13).  People who answer “yes” to the first two questions have what she has defined as a “fixed” mindset.  A person with a fixed mindset believes that the talents and abilities you are born with are the ones you will always have.  You can get training and take classes but, in general, you don’t change much. 

People with fixed mindsets spend a lot of time defending their thinking, trying to get the one right answer, and can get defensive when challenged.  They probably don’t raise their hands in class very often, because they don’t want to get a wrong answer. They don’t want to give the wrong answer they believe they are born with all of the intelligence they will have and can’t change much. That means that the answer wouldn’t be wrong, they would be wrong and flawed as human beings.

Fixed mindset people don’t like feedback.  They might not see feedback as honest suggestions to make them better, rather, they may see feedback as a personal attack.

I have many examples of this in my own life. I used to have a 14-year-old Buick Regal with 250,000 miles on the odometer.  Needless to say, after 14 years, things started to break down. First, the rear passenger-side window stopped working, then the rear driver’s-side window.  Finally one day, the driver’s-side window stopped going down.  It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but my only thought was very fixed-mindset: “Darn, now this window isn’t working either”. That’s it! That was my one and only thought. Now this event has happened, and I have to accept it. I can’t fix it because “I’m not good at fixing cars” (like people are born being good mechanics without needing any schooling or apprenticeship!).

Growth Mindset

If you answered “yes” to questions three and four, you have a growth mindset.

People with growth mindsets believe that, while you may have natural talents when you are born, these things are not set in stone and can be changed, learned and improved upon with conscious effort.  They believe that the brain is like a muscle, and gets stronger with use.  A growth mindset allows us to raise our hands in class to check our thinking, asking for feedback and course correction. Growth mindset people love feedback, and are constantly asking for honest evaluations of their performance. They view feedback as an exciting way to get better and to grow themselves and their abilities.

With the broken window example from earlier, a growth mindset (which I talked myself into after a few days) sounded like this: “Hmmm, my window doesn’t go down now. I wonder why?  I should take it to the garage to see how much it would cost to get fixed. You know what might be fun? Try to fix it myself! I’ve always wanted to learn a little about how windows work in cars. What’s the worst that can happen?  Maybe I can get my old college roommate to help me on a Saturday. We could make a day of it!” 

Cultivating a growth mindset is vital to continue to be successful in today’s fast-paced world.  How exactly do you create a growth mindset in yourself?  Check out the blog appropriately entitled How to create a growth mindset!

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