What The Hell Is The Growth Mindset Anyway?

I was first introduced to the concept of the growth-mindset in Dr. Carol S. Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, and as you can imagine I became obsessed with the idea. We live in a success-obsessed society (I had even just finished reading the book Millionaire Success Habits by Dean Graziosi so I’m not judging). Everyone wants to be “successful” and many of us feel that it’s within our reach but we juuuust haven’t quite made it there yet. What gives?!

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The book Millionaire Success Habits shares the habits of millionaires, things that you can implement into your own life that could increase your chances of reaching financial success (i.e. morning routines, hiring a business coach, stashing cash, etc.) but what it doesn’t share is the beliefs successful people hold in their minds of their abilities to be able to reach their levels of success along with the skills it takes to develop certain habits.

This is where your Mindset comes in. You can copy a millionaire all day but if you don’t believe that you can develop the skills needed to become successful then it won’t happen.

You’ve seen the watered-down version of having a good mindset on social media and have definitely heard the “fluffy” version from some of your favorite motivational speakers *shade*. I want to introduce you to the concept and research of the growth mindset and show how it, above anything else, impacts your success.

I believe that when people understand how their brains and minds work, they can get a better idea of how to use the growth-mindset to implement success habits.

In my research on mindset outside of Carol’s book, I found that most growth-mindset programs are for children. I mean, I get it. You want to cultivate a growth-mindset as early as possible. But what about the rest of us who were already set in our ways when this research came about?

(Take a survey here to help me develop a “growth-mindset” program for adults)

Below, I share my notes from Dweck’s book that breaks down the differences between the growth-mindset and the fixed-mindset, the perspectives of each mindset, benefits of cultivating the growth mindset, figuring out which mindset you have, and then at the end you can download and print out a “Growth-Mindset Checklist” to read from each day as you cultivate your own.

THE MINDSETS – GROWTH VS FIXED

As mentioned above, Dweck’s research tells us that there are two main mindsets: growth-mindset and fixed-mindset. And these mindsets “show how almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we THINK about our talents and abilities. People with a fixed mindset – those who believe that abilities are fixed – are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset – those who believe that abilities can be developed.”

In other words, you can want to be successful, but do you think you can be and are you prepared to put in the effort to become successful?

Reaching certain levels of success requires certain levels of skills. These skills could be intellectual, athletic, artistic, or business-related and a whole bunch of things in between. You may possess some or none. But the growth-mindset tells us it doesn’t have to stop there because it believes that ANY “skill can be cultivated through your efforts, your strategies and help from others.”

What does “cultivated” mean? It means that your skills can be improved by labor and attention. It means that you can LEARN anything. “Scientists are learning that people have more capacity for lifelong learning and brain development than they ever thought.”

Success is a process that goes hand-in-hand with development. I’ll share an example of how I went from the fixed-mindset to the growth-mindset as it related to my athletic abilities:

Truthfully, I’ve always been athletically-inclined. I was a damn good track & field athlete in high school and college becoming a six-time national All-American in the sport. But a decade after my track career ended, I set my sights on a new athletic goal: to run a half-marathon (it’s 13.1 miles).

The problem with this, to me, was that I had been a short sprinter all my life. My longest race lasted less than a minute. After a bit of research, I saw that the average pace time for the half-marathon for beginners like myself was finished in two and a half HOURS. What the what?! That sounded like forever.

I started to think that maybe this wasn’t a challenge for me considering that I was NOT a long-distance runner and never had been. That was the fixed-mindset talking. Then I came across an article with a simple beginner’s runner running program *say that fast 3x*.

I could LEARN to become a long-distance runner (in twelve weeks, mind you). And that’s exactly what happened. I developed the ability to finish the longest distance that I had ever run in my life. Yes, it was hard as hell (and no, I haven’t run since) but it was something that I could cross off my “100 Things List” – a list of challenges that I’ve put together for myself.

In 3 short months, with a lot of effort and advice from others, I changed my mindset from fixed to growth as it related to my abilities and accomplished a major goal.

VIEW FROM THE TWO MINDSETS

Now that we know there are two mindsets then we must understand how they each view the world, others and their own circumstances. We’ve all heard these sayings before “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” and “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Dweck points out that people with the fixed-mindset view would not agree with those statements. Here’s how they’ll reword them:

“Nothing ventured, nothing lost.”

“If at first you don’t succeed, you probably don’t have the ability.”

“If Rome wasn’t built in a day, maybe it wasn’t meant to be.”

To people with the fixed-mindset, “taking risks and putting in effort reveal your inadequacies and show that you were not up to the task.” Those with the fixed mindset don’t believe they have inadequacies and if they do then they for damn sure don’t want them revealed to anyone.

But those with the growth mindset understand that our inadequacies show us where we have an opportunity to grow and learn a new skill or get better at an old one. They “understand the value of challenging themselves and the importance of effort.”

Let’s imagine there’s a woman with a dilemma in two major areas of her life: relationship with her partner and her career.

In her relationship, her partner doesn’t communicate as well or as much as she would like especially when they have an issue they need to discuss. If she has a fixed mindset, she would probably eventually end the relationship thinking he could never change and that his lack of effective communication is a permanent trait. But with the growth-mindset, she knows that, with a little practice and maybe a little help from a relationship counselor, they could both learn how to communicate well with each other.

This same woman is feeling a stagnancy in her career. She’s been at her job for 5 years and has had no promotion nor a consistent raise over the years but the peers that she first started the job with have all gotten promotions and she’s certain that those promotions came with raises, too. In a fixed-mindset, she believes it’s because they’re more talented and influential than she is, and she could probably never reach their level of understanding. But if she were to apply the growth-mindset, she would know that she has the ability to gain more understanding in her industry through effort in learning and therefore create a sphere of influence in her current role.

How you react to life, your circumstances, and your abilities are all based upon your basic mindset.

BENEFITS OF KNOWING ABOUT THE GROWTH MINDSET

The great thing about hearing and reading about the growth mindset is that just learning about (even without implementation) can incrementally improve your mindset. The brain is fantastic in that way. Now that it’s in one of your “brain file folders” you’ll probably start noticing more information about the growth mindset. You might even start noticing those in your life who might have the fixed or growth mindset and may be inclined to share what you’ve learned about it with them.

So, while simply knowing about the growth mindset can have an impact on your mind, there are plenty other benefits to be had as well. Undertaking the journey to a growth-mindset sets you up for lifelong learning. And not only does lifelong learning increase your brain’s capacity, it also increases your chance of an extremely fulfilled life. Learning comes from being challenged and challenges, especially when we overcome them, add deep meaning to our lives.

In Dweck’s book, she says, “Mindsets change what people strive for and what they see as success and how they change the definition, significance, and impact of failure. And how they change the deepest meaning of effort.”

HOW TO KNOW WHICH MINDSET YOU HAVE

These statements (or quiz of sorts) comes from the book, Mindset. To help you understand which mindset you have, answer these questions about personality and character and decide whether you mostly agree or mostly disagree with each one.

1.       You are a certain kind of person, and there is not much that can be done to really change that.

2.       No matter what kind of person you are, you can always change substantially.

3.       You can do things differently, but the important parts of who you are can’t really be changed.

4.       You can always change basic things about the kind of person you are.

Which did you agree with more? Statements 1 and 3 are the fixed-mindset statements and statements 2 and 4 reflect the growth mindset.

Don’t get caught up on whether you were more of the fixed or growth mindset for this one. The reality is that most of us can be either one depending on a certain “area” of our lives. For your example, you might be more growth-minded as it relates to your personality and character, but you might be more fixed-minded as it relates to your intelligence and sports ability.

The idea is to get to the point in every area of your life where you understand that “you can change your mindset.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

Download this Growth Mindset checklist. It’s a list of things to say to yourself daily that will put you on a path to a growth mindset (if you don’t think you’re there yet) and if you are there, it’ll help you continue to cultivate it when the sneaky fixed mindset tries to creep up into our minds (and believe me, it happens to us all).

I suggest printing out the checklist (maybe 4 times a month because there’s space for you to write your own reminders) and hang it somewhere you can see it daily (like your bathroom or refrigerator).

Email me at taimariesawyer@gmail.com to let me know your thoughts on the growth-mindset and if you plan to get on this journey, how you’ll do it and how I can help.