Having a Growth Mindset… What does that REALLY mean?

The concept of Growth Mindset has been around for centuries although it’s been called different things. Confucius, Aristotle, Emerson, and John Dewey all espoused some form of learning and education with growth as an individual. Today, we associate Dr. Carol Dweck as the person who has best pioneered research into the underlying beliefs people have about their own learning and intelligence. She has developed the terms FIXED and GROWTH MINDSET with students, in multiple books and across organizations. Starting with early research into children and the notion that the term “gifted” can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, she has now expanded her work to describe it as this:

Fixed Mindset — You believe that your talents and abilities are set in stone–either you have them, or you do not. You need to prove yourself over and over, trying to look smart and talented at all costs. This mindset is the path of stagnation.

Growth Mindset — You understand that talents can be developed, and those terrific abilities are built over time. This insight guides you on your path of opportunity and success.

And since we all have a combination of both, she further elaborates in her book, Mindset, that:

Mindset change is not about picking up a few pointers here and there. It’s about seeing things in a new way. When people…change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework. Their commitment is to growth, and growth takes plenty of time, effort, and mutual support.” Carol Dweck

Research on brain plasticity shows how connectivity between neurons can change with experience. With practice, neural networks grow new connections and strengthen existing ones.  Dr. David Rock and the Neuroleadership Institute focuses on how leaders can make this a centerpiece of their daily interactions with employees. 

Key Takeaway: What we know now, is that the term Growth Mindset has become so pervasive, that we need to remember to not let it become distorted as a popular “buzzword”. Dr Dweck describes in Harvard Business Review about these misconceptions and the importance of working with your fixed mindset mindset triggers. What are they? Your HBDI Profile Results can help you identify both fixed and growth thinking. Your lower preferences could be an indication of a fixed mindset with certain types of thinking, requiring a level of agility to stretch and expand to more of a growth mindset. The other thing to consider is that our language is critical. As we pay attention to what we say about ourselves, it gives us a window into understanding our own beliefs and how they can sabotage our lives.  Here are 65 great examples of how we can foster a growth mindset.    

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