You may have heard about a “growth mindset” in discussions of popular psychology and social trends. From TED talks to books, quizzes and seminars, there is an increasing amount of discussion about this idea.
But you may be wondering, what exactly is a growth mindset? And can it actually help you succeed?
A growth mindset means that you thrive on challenge, and don’t see failure as a way to describe yourself but as a springboard for growth and developing your abilities. Your intelligence and talents are all susceptible to growth.
Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University first talked about the power of mindset nearly 30 years ago. Carol Dweck and her team became interested in the attitude of students when it comes to failure.
After studying the behavior of students and children, the term “growth mindset” came about. Simply put, this mindset means that you believe in your ability to become better through hard work, and help from others.
At WGU, our programs are designed to help you recognize your ability to succeed in any area. WGU students simply cannot fail. We don’t offer failing grades for this exact reason. We know that with more work, you can master material, even if it is more difficult for you at first. With time and effort, we know you will succeed.
Dweck says, “This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments, everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”
So you know you can gain a growth mindset, but where do you start? Here are eight simple steps that can help you:
1. Listen to the mindset voice inside of you.
Internal dialogue like “What if you fail?” or “If you don’t try, nobody will see you fail,” means you have a fixed mindset voice inside. It’s important to listen to your internal mindset voice so you can truly discover what type of mindset you have. This is the first step to successfully changing your mindset.
2. Recognize that you have a choice.
You understand the mindset voice inside of you is telling you not to try, to protect yourself from failure. Now, the choice is up to you. Will you listen to the voice?
3. Talk back with a growth mindset voice.
Instead of falling for the fixed mindset voice, talk back to your internal dialogue with a new mindset. Say things like, “I’m not sure I can do it, but it will be worth it to try.” or “If I don’t try at all, it is a failure. There’s no dignity in that.” This new voice will help you drown out the fixed mindset voice that is crowding your thoughts and ambition.
Put yourself in situations that are challenging to help you practice your new voice. School is a great place for you to start to practice a mindset of growth. With new challenges around every corner, there’s many opportunities to thrive from setbacks and trials.
5. Find outside help.
Cultivating a growth mindset isn’t something that can be done alone. You’ll need outside help to offer encouragement and advice. WGU has Program Mentors and faculty that will be with you when you face challenges, to help you navigate them and keep positive talk coming your way. As you listen to others with a positive mindset about your situations, you’ll start to say those things to yourself as well.
6. Stop seeking approval of others.
While you need outside help, you also need to stop worrying about the approval of others. Comparing yourself to others, focusing on how you look to others, and hiding failures are all hindering you from developing a growth mindset, and finding success. Keep focusing on yourself and how you can grow, and stop worrying if others are looking at your progress. Chances are, nobody is.
7. Replace the world “failing” with “learning.”
As you come to recognize that failing is just a new way of learning, you’ll stop being so afraid of it. By embracing failure as an opportunity to continue learning and growing, you’ll be on your way to understanding what a growth mindset is really all about.
8. Take growth mindset action.
You need to follow through on the actions your new mindset voice tells you to take on. Sometimes, you may not succeed. But that’s ok. As you practice talking to yourself with a growth mindset, and follow through on the actions, you’ll cultivate the mindset of growth that you desire over time.
If everything has its opposite, a fixed mindset is the opposite of a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is the basic belief that you can’t change your talents, traits, and basic abilities; in other words, you have certain innate abilities that you’re born with, and that is that.
A mindset that's fixed assumes that your character, intelligence, and creativity are unchanging, and nothing you can do will impact them. Achievement for a fixed mindset is the belief that it just confirms your inclination toward a trait or your intelligence.
No effort or hard work will impact your achievements if you have a fixed mindset. This means every situation is a way to prove yourself, to prove that your given abilities are enough to bring success.
This means that there's now reason to try new things, because you won't have any growth. New skills that you don't believe will come easily to you are out of the question. Failing at them will mean you're unintelligent, and a failure as a person.
Dweck says that having a mindset that is fixed can be unhealthy, and won’t benefit individuals.
“I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves in [a learning setting], in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?”
New research indicates that our brains are malleable, and someone with a mindset that's fixed can change to a different mindset. They found that those that do change to a growth mindset are more motivated and successful.
It’s true that most everyone has certain talents or areas where they really excel. Some find that math comes easily for them, others are instinctively creative. Some can memorize facts with ease, and others excel at writing. No matter what your natural talents are, your strengths and weaknesses alike can be improved with a growth mindset.
Students or individuals that come into their life with the attitude of “I’m not good at this,” rarely find success. The people who accomplish the most display determination and discipline, not just natural talent.
Individuals and companies that foster a growth mindset are able to tackle complications, overcome obstacles, and work harder to find success. They don’t give up easily, and understand that setbacks don’t indicate that they are not good enough.
Here at WGU, we work to help you develop a growth mindset as a leader. Inspiring others to develop a growth mindset will bring everyone success. We work to help you develop your own growth mindset, so you can then help cultivate that ability in others.
A growth mindset is crucial for your success here at WGU, and as you enter your career. Working to develop this mindset now will ultimately help you succeed in any challenge that comes your way.