The Growth Mindset

There are two types of mindsets we can cultivate. One that embraces problems as opportunities to learn, and the one that avoids them, often out of fear to fail. People that avoid conflicts can be described as having a fixed mindset. Those who see problems as interesting challenges have a growth mindset. Sometimes we like to switch from one to the other.

People have a fixed mindset because they believe that basic qualities, like intelligence or talents, are fixed traits and that these traits are responsible for success. They often like to document past achievements (remark for drawing: show trophies in a room of a boy).

With a growth mindset, people believe that new abilities can be developed through practise. This view creates the love for learning that most great leaders (Angela Merkel), artists (Note Udom) and achievers (Steve Jobs) have in common. For them life becomes an excising journey with endless opportunity to figure new things out and advance (draw world of a computer game, with dragons and quests).

To develop a growth mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck, the Stanford University professor who coined the term, advises leaders, teachers and parents to celebrate trying. Instead of applauding for an A, juniors should be awarded for any grade given they have studied hard. In fact, parents should encourage their children to try to learn any useful skill, even if it’s unrelated to school. Then children learn that they can learn, which they then also apply in class.

Neuroscientists support the idea. They confirm that the brain grows like any other muscle in the body – with training. Studies show that adopted twins tend to have higher intelligence compared to their siblings who stayed with the biological parents. The difference appears to come from the higher educational levels of adoptive parents and shows that nurture (show a big sprout coming out of a small coconut because of sun and rain) is more important than nature (show an big coconut with a small sprout as there is little sunshine and rain. Maybe the coconuts can be in the hands of the two twins respectively).

To illustrate the difference in everyday life, let's observe two imaginary kids. Jay thinks you either got it or not. Ann knows that she can learn anything if she just wants.

“Challenges” At physical exercise Jay avoids challenges. When it's time to jump over the vaulting horse he is afraid to look stupid and be laughed at. Ann embraces any challenge – it’s exciting it’s fun. She knows that failing is part of learning and if she tries hard, at the end nobody will laugh at her.

“Feedback” Jay avoids feedback, especially if the teacher tells him how to improve an essay he had been working (make it look as if he has been working on it for hours). Ann doesn't always the truth as well, but she knows that it’s the only way for her to get better. She also understands that it’s not her that is being assessed, but only her work, submitted on a specific day, on a specific topic.

“Obstacles” Jay always takes the easy road. For example, he likes escalators and hates to take the stairs (use a staircase at the train station). When he is practicing the guitar (draw him enjoying it), he stops the moment he’s getting stuck. Ann usually doesn't even take escalators. She jumps up the stairs, counts every in her head and after enjoys the blood rushing through her veins. She practises the drums every morning for 15 minutes (draw angry neighbours in the background). Not that she always enjoys, but she knows that effort is part of a journey to a more fun life.

“Relationships” Ann likes to see her others succeed - it inspires her. She knows if she motivates her friends to get better, she herself is likely to grow as well. If others succeed, Jay feels threatened. He also doesn’t like to see his best friend to try new things. He’s afraid that his success will put pressure on him to do more of his life too.

“Career” Smart companies hire growth mindset as they are the ones that solve problems and persist despite obstacles. To hire the right candidates some ask a simple question during the job interview: Do you believe a manager is born or is management a skilled learned? Jay answers that managers are born and Ann gets the job.

A simple switch in how a person views a situation can mean the world of a difference. Not just the outcome of that situation; the outcome of that person’s place in life. As the late poet Samuel Beckett once said, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

What do you think about the concept? Is it overly simplistic? And if you buy the idea, do you believe it is possible to make a permanent switch from a fixed to a growth mindset? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!