When people exhibit a ‘fixed mindset’, they believe their intelligence is fixed and can’t be developed. They also believe that talent alone creates success, without effort.
A ‘growth mindset’ is the opposite – when we believe our intelligence can be developed. That we can learn from our experience to improve and grow.
Just to bring it to life with some more examples:
When adopting a growth mindset we:
- Embrace challenges, seeing them as an opportunity to grow
- Persist in the face of obstacles
- Learn from feedback, seek it out
- Are inspired by the success of others and learn from it
- Believe attitude and effort determine everything
- Might say ‘I can learn anything I want to’.
Alternatively, when we are stuck in a fixed mindset we:
- Avoid challenges
- Give up easily
- Ignore or avoid feedback
- Feel threatened by the success of others
- Believe abilities determine everything
- Might say ‘I stick to what I know’.
My earlier blog What is a growth mindset and how can it help you? explains more about the concept and in particular how a growth mindset can help you when you are reflecting on your career.
I got a useful challenge from a coaching client recently. I had shared the benefits of having a growth mindset and I confess, took for granted that we can relatively easily choose to shift our way of thinking. The next session they said to me, ‘but what if I recognise myself having a fixed mindset, but I still can’t stop thinking that way?’
Since then, I have been consciously observing myself and my language and *shock* I realised that even a coach and a personal development lover sometimes adopts a fixed mindset! I heard myself saying to someone ‘I’m rubbish at learning languages – I just don’t have that skill’. I took lessons in Spanish when I was living in Chile, but my commitment to study and practice was at best, half hearted.
I realised that it’s not always easy to just ‘adopt a growth mindset’ and if I am being really honest, there may be some situations where we don’t really want to! I am definitely better at adopting a growth mindset with certain activities rather than others. I have loved learning how to be a coach, getting accredited in tools such as Strengths Profile and Insights Discovery. But I never embraced my Spanish. I found other ways to succeed in Chile without needing it – persuading my lovely bilingual friends to help me out with something beyond my basic understanding. I threw myself into my remote studying for a qualification back in the UK (in English!). I learnt enough to get by in places I wanted to go like bars, restaurants and shops. I celebrated Google translate. But, I also knew that I was only living there for a short period of time. Perhaps if it was a permanent move I would have worked harder at it.
So, what are some ways you can try to overcome having a fixed mindset?
Adding to those in my earlier blog, I would also suggest:
- Get clear on your goals – what do you want to change and why? (And also identify the things you are happy not to develop).
- Be patient with yourself if it isn’t always immediately easy – especially if it is a long-term habit or way of thinking you are trying to change.
- Keep challenging yourself – know that you do have the choice to persevere trying to change.
- Write down your reflections regularly and watch your own language – notice when you are being a blocker or getting in your own way.
- Reframe how you describe a challenge – move from I can’t do X, to I can’t do X, yet or I am working on getting better at X.
- Talk to someone about your goals – is there a professional friend or mentor who could give you feedback and help to hold you accountable?
- Even better, work with someone– is there someone who also wants to develop the same thing you could partner with?
- Focus on things you can control and don’t concern yourself with things you can’t.
- Try some of these coaching questions on yourself:
- What can I learn from this?
- Where can I get helpful feedback?
- What will success look like?
We are all a work in progress – remember that you do have the power to change. You have the gift to choose your attitude.