Growth Mindset - what exactly is it?
World-renowned psychologist, Carol Dweck articulated the findings from her decades of research in success and achievement in her now-classic book, “Mindset: The new psychology for success”.
She described how powerful our mindset can be in terms of the success we have in all facets of our lives. Further, in differentiating between fixed and growth mindsets, she explained the potential that we each have available to us, by shifting to a growth mindset, to bring our own personal and professional success, improved relationships, better business results, and ultimately, happiness.
From her book,
The fixed mindset makes you concerned with how you'll be judged, the growth mindset makes you concerned with how you are learning.
An example to further illustrate the difference between fixed and growth mindsets can be found at the beginning of her book where she describes her experiences with middle-school children and their willingness (or not) to try more and more difficult puzzles.
Simplistically, the children with a fixed mindset (concerned with being judged), prefer to do the easier puzzles because it gives them a sense of satisfaction in their achievement as they are judged well for completing the puzzles; and the children with a growth mindset (concerned with learning), are more interested in continuing to do puzzles that are more and more difficult - in this case, it is in the learning that their sense of achievement and satisfaction is derived.
I was in a conversation with my 12-year-old stepson recently about whether to play chess or checkers and then later in the day, about trying a new sport. In one conversation he was decidedly displaying a growth mindset, and in the other, a fixed mindset was showing up.
I found myself contemplating how a growth mindset is a fluid concept. That is, as individuals, we are not intrinsically someone with a fixed or growth mindset, rather the mindset we show up with at any given moment is a product of a whole range of issues, many of which are indicators of our current level of wellness in body, mind, and spirit.
In a time many of us our languishing more often than we are thriving, getting ourselves into our growth mindset proves a little more difficult and all the more important.
Why is a Growth Mindset important?
By definition, the act of leadership is to be visionary, and inspiring, and looking for ways and methods for things to be better than they are now. Indeed, these are the activities of a growth mindset thinker. So as a leader, you are likely to be naturally in a growth mindset most of the time.
However, even the most 'growth mindset' focused of us can have moments or times when we fall into fixed mindset thinking.
During times of crisis, or uncertainty, your team will look to you, as their leader, to show them the way forward with optimism and enthusiasm. It is the stressors of those very same crises that can wreak havoc on you too, and make it difficult to maintain your usual growth mindset state.
It is important to notice these times with self-awareness and even to acknowledge them with your team. Demonstrating the right amount of vulnerability will help you to foster trust with your team.
But in the end, your impact as a leader will come from your ability to bring your grit, your resilience and show the people in your charge the hopeful way forward. And bringing these traits to your leadership practice in times of stress will be much easier when you are in a growth mindset.
Remember to be curious and ask questions so that you can learn and grow through the challenging times that you and your team will inevitably face. Not only will you be bringing your team along with transparency of your own vulnerability, and giving them a sense of hope and enthusiasm, you will also model for your team the learning approach that defines a growth mindset.
And by modelling this, you'll be helping them to move into their own growth mindset groove too. This will lead to greater successes for you and your team at work, as well as for each of your team members in their own lives.
Your leadership impact will soar! And you will reap the rewards that you hoped for by initially setting out on the leadership journey in the first place! To bring out the best in your people!
Get Your Growth Mindset Mojo Back!
If you need a boost for your growth mindset mojo, here are three areas to consider.
- Wellness Fundamentals
- Next Level Wellness
- Fixed Mindset Thinking Interrupters
You can follow along to learn more about each by clicking inside each of the tabs.
There isn't anything sexy about this one. And you know the drill!
Are you getting enough sleep? Eating right? Exercising? Getting outside in the sunshine?
It might not sound very exciting, but the truth is that getting these things right is the necessary foundation not only for your physical health but also, your mental health.
Your ability to move beyond 'meh' and into a growth mindset headspace will be strengthened after just 1 or 2 days of getting the basics right.
It's okay to have a glass of wine, or even two, in the evening, or an extra helping of mac and cheese occasionally, but if you are starting to overindulge on a regular basis, you simply won't be at your best.
Further, it may be a sign that you are trying to ignore a bigger problem.
If you really are struggling with any of these crucial items, please pause! Get some help with a loved one, friend, or coach. Your own health depends on it, and so too does your effectiveness as a leader.
Take stock and really be honest with yourself. Invest in a daily habit tracker to monitor your progress and celebrate your wins.
And if deep down you know you need to, please get some professional support.
Remember that you are not alone.
With the fundamentals in place, you can then move into the next stages of self-care with some 'next level' wellness that will help bring your mind, body, and spirit to a new level of calm and peace.
And from this place of peace, your growth mindset can flourish.
What are some of the self-care indulgences that you really enjoy in your life?
If you've gotten into a "work-a-holic" mode, or a "care-for-others-only-a-holic" mode, then plan to take a time out for yourself this weekend.
Go for a walk, have a warm bath, read a book, laugh (watch a comedy or call a friend who makes you laugh), or perhaps sleep in one morning and then leisurely read the newspaper with a cup of tea.
If you don't have a good self-care routine right now - and I am guessing you don't if you are looking to get your growth mindset back 🤨 - then start small, and just pick one thing for this week.
I also highly recommend a mindfulness practice, and perhaps this can be the second item you add to your weekly or daily self-care routine. Working with the breath as part of a guided (or freeform) meditation, yoga or chi gong, or prayer can have amazingly positive effects on body, mind, and spirit.
Invest in a habit tracker and schedule in these self-care routines, gradually building up to several a week.
Fixed Mindset Thinking Interrupters
Even with the wellness fundamentals and your next-level wellness self-care routines in place, there will be moments where you will find it hard to stay in growth mindset thinking.
For those moments, you need your go-to list of thinking interrupters.
These are quick thoughts that you can draw from to slow down your response in a stressed or heated moment.
Three of my favorites are as follows.
1. Notice Your Breath
Take a slow breath, noticing as your breath comes in and then as it releases out.
I like to notice the temperature of the air coming into my nostrils and then notice that it is warmer as it releases back out through my nostrils. I recommend at least three breaths, but even one will help!
2. Define your own Anchor
Have an anchor thought that you conjure up when you feel yourself getting negative or digging-in with fixed-mindset thinking. It might be remembering the last time you shared a smile with a beloved grandparent or the sound of the waves crashing at the beach on a winter's day.
It should be something that you feel is important to you, as well as something you don't typically think about every day so that you give your mind an element of surprise.
An anchor for me is to think of the keyring that my grandmother, Mary had her keys on when I was a kid. I loved her big gold 'M'. When I need to, I interrupt my thoughts by conjuring up an image of that gold 'M' and a bunch of keys hanging off it.
3. Move Your Body
This one isn't always convenient in every situation, but if you are able to shift your physical shape in some way, either by dancing it out, stretching your body, or doing some quick push-ups or squats you will also catch your body by surprise and interrupt your fixed mindset thoughts.
If you are in a meeting or on a zoom call, shifting your position in your chair and stretching your arms up and back as you clasp your hands behind your head is one idea that has worked for me.
I am sure this post raised your awareness of how important a growth mindset is for you as a leader and gave you some ideas for maintaining your growth mindset thinking even in trying times.
Let me know what other ideas you have for rediscovering your growth mindset. I'd love to hear about both your fixed thinking moment interrupters and what your longer-term habits are that you've found helpful.
Supporting you on your leadership journey,