One of my core beliefs in my professional and personal life is that I am and should always be on a path of self-improvement — the work is never done, and if it feels like it is, it's time for a new challenge. In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carole Dweck introduces the concept of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset and how operating with one over the other will drastically affect your overall life trajectory. Though the concept itself is not a supremely complicated one, it's fascinating to see how this fundamental difference in mindset can significantly impact how a person develops. While a growth mindset can be challenging to attain, it's not impossible, and like anything else, training the muscle strengthens it.
Before identifying how you think, it's essential to identify the difference between the two mindsets. Someone with a fixed mindset believes that their abilities, talents and skills are fixed traits that cannot be changed and that they shouldn't bother trying. On the other hand, someone with a growth mindset believes that many of their abilities and talents can be continuously developed as long as they put in the work and dedication required. You may notice a person with a fixed mindset shy away from challenges or avoid risk, which often stems from a fear of failure. A person with a growth mindset will often lean into challenges and push themselves out of their comfort zone; they believe that failure is an opportunity to learn and grow, which helps to stave off the fear that comes with it. Because of the way these mindsets lead a person to behave, someone with a fixed mindset will most likely experience stagnation and a lack of progress, while someone with a growth mindset will become more resilient in the face of setbacks and are more likely to dust themselves off and try again in the hopes of attaining their goals.
When broken down this way, it's evident that a growth mindset is necessary to succeed and move forward, but it also highlights why it's so easy to fall into a fixed mindset. To put it simply, it's more comfortable. Staying in a fixed mindset might not push you toward your goals, but it also dramatically lessens the risk of failing and feeling uneasy — everything will stay, for the most part, as it is. If you find yourself stuck in that fixed mindset, know that you can shift your thinking, which will make an immediate and marked difference in your daily life. While it may feel like it applies more to tangible goals and career paths, you'll see that your mindset affects all aspects of your life, from learning a skill necessary for landing a new job to pursuing a new hobby.
There are several things you can put into practice immediately to help you make the shift:
1. Embrace challenges as they arrive. Instead of avoiding obstacles, head directly for them and use them as an opportunity to learn how to overcome them. Everything is an opportunity if you can frame it that way.
2. Recognize your abilities and how they can be built upon. Give yourself credit for what you can do well while understanding that they can almost always be developed further. Note your potential and focus on your strengths while working in parallel to improve your weaknesses.
3. Take calculated risks. The key word in that sentence is calculated — welcoming risk doesn't mean you should ignore your instincts. Be cautious without being afraid, and step outside of your comfort zone when it feels right.
4. Practice self-reflection. It's difficult to develop without taking an honest look at yourself and how you've gotten to where you are, and periods of reflection will help you see what's working as you shift into a new mindset.
5. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals. They say that you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and if the people around you operate with a growth mindset, it'll be a lot easier to achieve one yourself.
It won't be overnight, but by channeling your energy towards this growth mindset, you will ultimately be setting yourself up for success, and conversely, you won't see the progress you hope to achieve without it. I've found that adopting a growth mindset has been instrumental in my life, helping me develop new skills and push myself beyond my perceived limitations. I've also seen firsthand how important it is for myself and those I lead. Fostering a growth mindset culture within the business is imperative to creating an innovative and dynamic environment where my team members know they have opportunities to develop and improve, benefitting not only each individual but the company as a whole.