Growth Mindset - What it is, and how to achieve it

In every day life, people usually have an overall opinion of the world - this can be glass half full/glass half empty, positive/negative, etc. Your overall mindset affects everything in your life, from your employment, to family and friends, and how you feel about yourself.

There are two big categories when it comes to mindsets - fixed, and growth. A Fixed Mindset is essentially set in stone, and the person who follows a fixed mindset path is going to believe that intelligence and talent are determined when you are born. No matter the effort you put into it, you will never get better at anything you attempt because you were born not able to do those things from the get-go. A growth mindset, on the other hand, promotes the belief that you are able to develop your skills and knowledge through practice, persistence, and learning!


The concept of a growth mindset is really interesting because it completely levels the playing field between people born with genetic advantages, and people born without. Just because someone's IQ is higher than yours, doesn't mean that with the right attitude you can't achieve more. When you look at successful people, it's easy to assume that they are just innately talented, or maybe just 'born lucky', but what if the only thing that's making them different from you is their mindset? Are they growth, or are they fixed?

Though your mindset develops as a child, it is not something you are stuck with for life. Your brain is a very powerful organ, and has the capability to change and repurpose in response to learning, and new experiences! Because of this ability, we can create new neural pathways (and remove old ones that don't serve us anymore) and effectively change the way we think.


How do I achieve a growth mindset?


Incremental Success is still Success

A lot of the time when you want to get better at something (work, hobbies, relationships, etc), the first-attempt goals that we set for ourselves are way out of reach. Big goals can be extremely overwhelming, and can hinder you from pursuing something for fear of failure. Start small! For an example, let's say that you want to learn how to make an opera cake. If you jump straight into it, it's going to be a hodgepodge of messy layers of cream and cocoa, and even though it'll probably still taste good, it won't be as beautiful as you want and the layers may not be set. However, consider if you took the time to master each layer, let's say a week each for this example - the perfect almond sponge, then the coffee buttercream and syrup, then the chocolate ganache. By the end of the month, you'd be able to assemble a beautiful dessert! Taking small steps to figure out the components necessary to succeed at your big goal is very important, and small success is still success!


Don't be afraid of failure

When you have a fixed mindset, the idea of failure is scary. When you fail with a fixed mindset, it is essentially proof of your belief in your limited, or 'fixed' abilities. Having that fear of failure keeps you from taking on challenges that would help you learn and grow, which keeps you from improving your abilities in the long run. It's the ultimate version of a cyclical, self-fulfilling prophecy. But if you have a growth mindset, the idea of failure is a learning experience. You can take criticism, feedback, and failure as tools to success - because they will teach you what you should do the next time. People with growth mindsets traditionally don't worry about what people think, because they're doing what they want for themselves and not to appease others or to gain approval. They understand that everyone learns and develops at different rates, so comparing yourself against a colleague who is more productive, or a competitor making bigger strides isn't going to matter much outside of utilizing the other persons strengths to learn how to grow your own.


Ignore the fixed mindset voice when it shows up

The fixed mindset can creep up on you - you may not even realize that you have one. Even if you live in a growth mindset, fixed ideologies can still sneak in, and when that happens you want to cut them out immediately. If you're not sure what that voice sounds like, it's the little falter that shows up when you want to do something for yourself that's beneficial, such as getting a promotion or applying for a job. Your brain can say things like "We want more money, but you know those applicants are all more qualified than you. They have more experience, so who knows if you'll even stand a chance. Plus, having your boss reject you is going to make working for them uncomfortable, so they'll probably be embarrassed by having to turn you down, and now work is going to become awkward." Recognizing that this is fixed mindset thoughts is important, because you can flip the narrative internally! Instead, try "I should definitely go for that promotion. It shows my motivation to excel and perform for the company, and if I have any downfalls my boss can provide mentoring suggestions, and a plan of attack to better the skills I already have."


Language matters, so make sure you use it correctly!

Language, as we know, is powerful. Word choice matters. Swapping out negative words in your thought process for positive words can have a major affect on your mindset! There is no failing, there is learning. You aren't exhausted, you need time to recharge. Not everything is criticism, sometimes the people around you are helping you grow. The best word to add into your vocabulary though, is 'yet'. Back to our previous example, you haven't mastered the opera cake... yet, but you will.


Asking for help is a big step to success.

Living your life guided by a growth mindset gives you the belief and freedom to know that you do not have to face everything alone. Not every challenge can be faced alone, and it's important to have a great team around you that can provide assistance when you know help is needed. When you have a fixed mindset, it's often hard to ask for help because you believe that you should have the capacity to complete those tasks alone, and it falls back into the self-fulfilling prophecy that you can't do it because you don't already know how. It's important to remind yourself that asking for training or working with a mentor in your life is not a sign of weakness! It shows commitment to learning, to perpetual growth, and the validity of your own self-growth.


Accept feedback with open arms, and don't let it invalidate you.

The way that you process feedback, or criticism (be in constructive or otherwise) is the number one indicator of the mindset you currently live in. If someone says something that you don't like, do you get upset? Do you blame others? Are you immediately defensive? It's a normal emotional response, but it can also be a response of a fixed mindset. Steadily, working through your mindset to promote growth will help you get better at accepting feedback. Remember to ask yourself what you can learn from their feedback, what you can do differently next time, and how can you get a better result?


Don't stop now!

The most important think to remember is to keep on truckin'! Perseverance is the number one trait that sets apart people with growth mindsets and people with fixed mindsets. According to studies, you need a minimum of 10,000 hours under your belt to achieve mastery in anything. Whether you're a baker, a composer, an accountant, or even a student - you can't achieve your dreams without enormous amounts of dedication. Of course there's always the reality that there are people who are more talented naturally, but if they don't hone and develop those skills then they're not going to be going very far.


It's important to take the time to look within yourself, analyze your thought process, and figure out whether or not you are currently living in a fixed or a growth mindset. Flipping the script on your mindset can help you improve the performance of anything in your life - professionally, personally, and overall! Don't worry about racing head-first into big goals, life (and the growth mindset) is a marathon, and not a sprint. You want to make sure that you celebrate every mile, half-mile, or 20 foot market you make it to! Continually celebrating your successes can remind you to keep one foot in front of the other, and continue that progress without faltering!