by Justin Standfield
When you’re interacting with others – especially in meetings or other group situations at work – do you frequently feel like you’re being judged? Are there times when you will put deliberate effort into coming across to others as clever? When you’re in a learning environment (e.g. a course, workshop or webinar) do you look at others and assume that everyone else just ‘gets it’ more quickly than you do?
If so, the chances are that you’ve adopted what author Carol Dweck calls a ‘fixed mindset’. When we view life from a fixed mindset, we tend to see ourselves and everyone around us as possessing a fixed, unchangeable amount of cognitive and physical ability. Someone with a fixed mindset will typically think: “If I appear to be bad at something (work-related skills, sport, new hobby etc.), then I simply haven’t been blessed with the gifts to do it well”.
Although this belief might seem pretty benign, it can ultimately lead to us living a life of fear, avoidance and low interest for anything outside of our comfort zone.
Here’s what Carol Dweck’s research has discovered: if someone has a fixed mindset and they find that something new is uncomfortable or hard, they tell themselves that they just don’t have the mental or physical capacity to do it. Then, they might decide that if it’s hard and uncomfortable now, it will always be uncomfortable and hard for them.
Luckily, we can shift our mindset and develop the habit of being more curious than afraid when faced with new things or challenges, and sustain our interest and effort when things do get tougher. The first step to going from a fixed mindset (believing “challenges are a threat”) to a growth mindset (believing “challenges are a chance to grow my mental and physical abilities”) is to realise that this change is possible.
“No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.” – Carol Dweck
I should add that there’s a whole load of science behind Carol Dweck’s concepts that draw from findings in the last few decades to do with our brain circuitry, ‘rewiring’ the brain and neuroplasticity. As fascinating as these areas of brain science are, they’re too complex to summarise in a short blog article here. However, if you’d like to know more about this topic in depth, I highly recommend the resources listed below as credible sources of information.
The power of believing you can improve, a TEDx Talk by Carol Dweck
The latest science of Growth Mindset, a podcast with Carol Dweck & Scott Barry Kaufman
A national experiment reveals where a growth mindset improves achievement, a journal article from ‘Nature’, by Carol Dweck and others
From today, I’m sharing the first in a series of social media posts – The 12 Days of a Growth Mindset – that aims to offer some simple but effective tips to help anyone move away from a fixed mindset and towards a growth mindset. If you combine these 12 tips with a commitment to growth (and accept that true growth isn’t a switch you can flick on overnight), and seek out and offer social support to those around you who are also learning, your mindset really will change.
It’s almost time for children here in the UK to return to school for a new academic year; a few weeks later, many students will be heading off to university, too. If you have young people in your life, share some of these growth mindset ideas with them – they’re just as relevant to education as they are to workplace learning or hobbies.
Look out for our growth mindset tips every day for the next 12 days on social media!
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