Do you have a Growth or a Fixed Mindset?

Do you believe that your  important abilities (e.g. intelligence, creativity, empathy, leadership skills, etc) are fixed traits and cannot be changed or that they can grow and improve? Are you focusing more on ‘how smart you are’ or on ‘how you can get better’?

There is a a lot of research undertaken about the impact of the different ways of thinking about the goals we pursue. When you think in terms of I am good at X or I cannot do Y, this behaviour represents more the fixed mindset. When you  believe that you can further develop an ability with effort and hard work, then this attitude reflects a growth mindset.

In other words, fixed mindset focuses on performance whereas, growth mindset focuses more on learning. 

The big difference in behaviour arises when performance is challenged. When the performance is not as good as expected, the people who are more concerned about validating their abilities (fixed mindset) become defensive, get easier demotivated    and may even give up. On the other hand, those with growth mindset take the feedback (irrespective how painful it is) as an opportunity to work  to further develop their skills. This inner motivation manifests because they believe that their abilities can change with practice and effort.

So next time you give feedback to somebody for a job well done, reflect whether you want to praise them for putting the effort, their determination, their persistence or for their ‘innate’ abilities (e.g. you are so ‘smart’, or a very ‘talented’).

There was an experiment done with children. Those who were labelled ‘smart’ were less resilient when they faced more difficult problems to solve because they thought that they not that smart anymore. The others who were praised for their effort, they thought that they were not there yet but they were engaged and keen to develop their abilities . For more information, check the TED talk by Carole Dweck.

Neuroscientists are hugely in favour of the growth mindset and they are in a position to provide numerous references to justify their stand.

I believe that both mindsets have their advantages. People with a fixed mindset are usually more  competitive and they are more keen to prove that they can perform better than others. This attitude is definitely needed in many highly competitive settings (e.g. in business or politics) especially with short term objectives.

However, when the results of their actions are not the desired ones, then they find it more difficult to build on the learnings in order to become more capable in the future. Also, they maybe more resistant in learning new skills. In the current fast changing environment, this might be a significant obstacle to realise their potential in the long run. This is the reason why the growth mindset has gained so much support.

Let’s go though back to the question of this post; do you have a fixed or a growth mindset?

What do you think?

Growth_FIxed_mindset

 

I tend to believe that we all have both mindsets embedded in our brain even if some of us may lean to one more than the other. For example, Elena may have a growth mindset in how she takes feedback into consideration in order to advance her career. On the other hand, she might be completely disinterested or feel afraid in mastering anything to do with technology or she may not put effort in improving her personal relationships.

Hence, the first step is to become aware of which mindset you use for a specific situation. Then,  depending on what you want to achieve, you may consider making some adjustments in order to use the qualities of the mindset you need. (These adjustments will probably be small at the beginning. But soon the many small incremental changes may have a significant positive impact.)

The bottom line:

It is definitely important for us to learn to identify whether the fixed or the growth mindset is in the driving seat in each situation and reflect whether this is the optimal one.

 

Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply. She passionately believes in empowering people to  make informed decisions about their career and their finances. She is a senior executive in the pharmaceutical industry and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. In her limited spare time, she wants to join forces with others to help everybody to be a better version of themselves.

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