Want to unlock the secrets of success? Cultivate a growth mindset!
At least, that’s what everyone online constantly says.
The common refrain suggests that everyone can succeed if they change the way they think and focus only on growth.
But is it true? What is a growth mindset, and how does that relate to how other people think? And if you don’t already have a growth mindset, are you doomed to a life of mediocrity and failure?
What is a Growth Mindset
A growth mindset describes a way people think about the world. People who have a growth mindset think anything is possible. They believe their brains can always learn and grow, develop and improve their talents, and achieve anything they set their minds to.
A growth mindset is a belief system about the world and how we can change our lives by trying new things, failing, learning, growing, and trying again.
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset
The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset. People with fixed mindsets believe that genetics play a role in what they can accomplish, and they can’t change their outcomes no matter what they do.
They think their talents, knowledge, and abilities have inherent limits they can never push past.
Origins of Growth and Fixed Mindset
Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck first discussed the idea of a growth mindset. She studied differences in how people approach the world in a 1995 paper, leading to her work on fixed and growth mindsets.
She expanded on the idea throughout her career.
In her book Mindset, initially published in 2006, Dweck explains that mindset is a critical factor to success that’s more important than intelligence or talent.
People who genuinely believe they can overcome obstacles, learn from failure, and triumph through constant effort are more likely to succeed.
Dweck isn’t the only one who wrote a book on Mindset. Angela Duckworth examined the topic in her bestselling Grit.
Grit examines the traits successful people share. Duckworth discovered that the most significant indicator of success wasn’t innate ability or experience but a thing she calls grit, which can best be described as a combination of hard work, perseverance, persistence, and belief in oneself.
People who truly believe hard work and effort paid off put in that work and achieved success, even when faced with setbacks.
Other Types of Mindsets
The growing field into how mindsets determine behavior identified numerous attitudes, each describing different approaches to life’s challenges.
The discussion about a scarcity vs. abundance mindset relates to how people view their finances. People with a scarcity mindset believe resources are limited, whereas those with an abundance mindset think there’s more than enough to go around.
There are confidence, fear, creativity, and business mindsets. It feels like a new mindset is developed each week and paraded around as the business buzzword until it’s replaced by something new.
Though the “mindset” idea can get overdone, there is a lot of truth in it. How we think drives our behavior, and our mindset drives our thinking.
Growth Mindset Examples
Examples of growth mindsets and fixed mindsets abound in our daily life.
Consider these fictional examples:
- A child studied for an exam but still failed. A child with a fixed mindset may come away thinking they aren’t smart enough to pass and will never be able to learn the material, while a child with a growth mindset may take it as a challenge to do better next time.
- A man interviewed for a job but didn’t get selected. If he has a fixed mindset, he may believe he’s terrible at interviewing or not cut out for the position. However, with a growth mindset, he’d identify where to improve interview skills and experience so he’s better prepared next time.
- A woman sees everything come easy to her colleague. They get all the best projects and seem to be next in line for promotion. If she has a fixed mindset, she may believe her college is just lucky or better, but if she has a growth mindset, she may ask her colleague for mentorship.
How To Develop a Growth Mindset
A growth mindset is essential to success, but it’s not genetic. In 2019, Dweck showed that short classroom interventions can change student mindsets about academic achievement.
If students can change their mindsets in an hour, you can change yours. Mindset is malleable.
Neuroscience agrees. Neuroplasticity is our brain’s ability to change how it responds to stimuli. Although it’s typically used to describe healing from things like stroke, it also implies that we can change our thought patterns by intentionally developing new skills.
Neuroplasticity says our brain is capable of changing. We only need to offer it the tools to do so.
Here’s how you can cultivate a growth mindset.
Determine Your Current Mindset
Before you can change your mindset, you need to be aware of how you currently see the world. Mindsets are fluid. You may have a growth mindset about one area of your life but a fixed mindset about another. Perhaps you embrace growth at work but think you’re unworthy of love.
If you want to change your mindset, you must do the hard work of examining yourself, your thoughts, and your belief systems.
Some of it may be painful. In doing your shadow work, you may uncover truths about yourself that make you uncomfortable. That’s okay – identifying these personal discomforts are critical to growth.
Identify What You Want
Once you know how your mind works, it’s time to make it work for you. That’s an impossible task when you aren’t sure what you want.
Take some time to consider your idea of success. Do you want the corner office and corporate title? Ask yourself why? Consider whether you’re searching for wealth, prestige, knowledge, status, love, connection, etc.
A harsh truth about life is that you probably can’t have everything. We have limited time, energy, and resources, so unless you were born with a silver spoon, you must identify what you value most and dedicate your effort to achieving that.
Once you know what you want, you can focus your growth mindset on attaining that.
They say anything worth doing is worth doing well, and that’s just wrong. The truth is anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.
People often freeze because they think that if they aren’t doing something perfectly, they shouldn’t do it. They spend hours upon hours seeking a perfection that does not exist.
The intense need to ensure things are perfect may stem from a fixed mindset. Fixed mindsets lead to fear of failure, and saying you won’t do something unless it’s perfect prevents failure.
And that’s why our next tip is so important.
Lean Into Failure
American society pushes the messed up idea that we must avoid failure at all costs. That’s not true.
We learn through failure. It allows us to examine what went wrong and where to improve.
Stop dwelling on your mistakes and see them for what they are: opportunities to learn. Learning from failure is essential to developing a growth mindset. Our failures are often are best learning experiences, so start embracing them.
Find Opportunities for Growth
People with a growth mindset seek out opportunities. They see potential in obstacles, failure, and new endeavors.
Try stuff. Take a class, join a club, or volunteer for a unique project at work.
When you start looking, you’ll realize that growth opportunities surround you. Take advantage of them. Seeing how much you’ve grown and developed will show you that you can change your outcomes via effort.
Some proponents of a growth mindset approach say anything is possible, which is not entirely true. If you’re five foot two with poor coordination, no amount of practice will help you become an NBA superstar.
Some fields are highly selective, and others are more bout who you know than what you know.
A growth mindset does not guarantee achieving your goals, especially when your dreams are incredibly lofty. It’s not magic; it’s a belief in yourself that you can be better.
Consider Your Approach
According to Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again but expecting different results.
Some mindset proponents embrace insanity, thinking they will succeed if they keep trying.
A growth mindset isn’t solely about effort. The effort is essential, but where you put your effort is equally vital.
Let’s consider that man who didn’t get the job. He has a growth mindset but focuses on building interview skills. He takes workshops, does mock interviews, and reads everything he can about interviewing for success.
When he gets the opportunity to interview again, he’s passed over – yet again. His interview skills might be top-notch, but maybe other candidates have more desirable skills.
Rather than dedicating all his efforts to interview skills, perhaps he should ask the hiring manager what skills they’re looking for and work to improve on those.
Some folks interchange a growth mindset with a positive mindset, and although they aren’t the same, embracing positivity can help you develop a growth mindset.
A sour grapes attitude is inherent in people with a fixed mindset. The other person was better; there’s no way they can compete; they aren’t good enough. All these negative thoughts and ideas limit your growth potential.
Instead, shift that thinking to positive. The other candidate had skills I don’t have, but I can develop them! I’m good enough; if I do A, B, and C, I can prove it!
Looking on the bright side of things can help you develop a growth mindset.
Part of staying positive is celebrating others when they win rather than giving in to jealousy. Celebrating the accomplishments of others has many benefits. First, it helps build connections, which are essential to our human condition.
A genuine celebration can also boost your mood and help you think about how that person achieved what they did. Rather than think, “They’re just better than me,” think, “Wow, they’re amazing! How did they do that?”
Take the time to think about how other people achieve success and how you can replicate those actions in your own journey.
Sometimes those winners are the best helpers. Find someone who extols all the values you admire and ask them to mentor you.
Build a positive relationship with a mentor. They can help you identify situations where your fixed mindset is on display and offer tips and insights on shifting your thinking toward growth.
“I can’t do that” is the common rallying cry of a fixed mindset. While it might be true, the keyword you forgot to add is “yet.”
You can’t pass the test…yet. You aren’t an executive…yet.
Start adding the word “yet” to the end of your sentence every time you find yourself stuck in a fixed mindset. After adding “yet,” take a moment to think about how you can develop skills to change the “I can’t” into “I can.”
Be Open To Learning
People with a fixed mindset believe they can’t learn and grow.
Prove that wrong.
Learn everything you can at every opportunity. Ask questions, read books, and try things for yourself. Allow yourself the chance to learn at every turn.
When you’re open to learning new skills, you’ll discover opportunities for growth in the most unexpected places. It will be impossible to maintain a fixed mindset when you see how far you’ve come.
Remember Thoughts Matter
How you think is how you act. To develop a growth mindset, you must be mindful of your thoughts so they don’t become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Examine your thoughts. Catch yourself when you flow into fixed mindset territory and flip the script on those invasive views.
Over time, you’ll find that you have fewer and fewer thoughts relating to a fixed mindset. It’s like training your brain to believe in growth!
Training your brain works, and not just to prevent negative thoughts. You can use affirmations to train your brain into a growth mindset.
Every morning, take a few minutes to set positive affirmations about your growth mindset.
Say things like “I’m capable” or “I’m worthy of success.” Incorporate daily affirmations into your morning routine to help cultivate a growth mindset.
Meditation allows us time to honestly examine our inner thoughts and ideas. Use meditation as a tool to challenge your fixed mindset and develop your growth mindset.
Meditation practice works wonders for many of life’s challenges. It reduces stress and enhances overall wellness, so even if you already have the desired mindset, you should consider setting time aside for meditation to help you maintain it.
Relish in the Challenge
People with a fixed mindset may avoid challenges because they fear failing. Those with growth mindsets have no such limitations. They know that trying is an essential part of the fun.
When presented with a challenge, stop balking and see it for what it is: an opportunity to test your limits, push yourself, learn, and grow.
Take risks. So what if you fail? The challenge itself was the goal, not winning or losing.
Enjoy the Journey
The final way to develop a growth mindset may seem counterintuitive, but it’s true.
Stop focusing on the outcome.
Instead, focus on the overall journey. People with a growth mindset realize that life isn’t about the end point, the final accomplishment, or achieving some lofty goal: it’s about getting there.
People with growth mindsets never stop setting new goals and working to achieve them. The fun is in the work, the effort, the challenge, and what you learn while doing it.
Yes, when you achieve a massive goal, that final moment of glory feels fantastic, but it’s a release of all the tension leading up to it that gives it so much power.
The journey is the best part, so enjoy it with all the ups and downs that come with it.
Developing a Growth Mindset in Your Kids
A growth mindset is essential to a successful life, yet many parents unintentionally instill a fear of failure and a fixed mindset into their children.
As we learned, anyone can change their mindset, and parents can help their children develop a growth mindset rather than a fixed one, which will set them up for a successful life.
While the education system focuses too much on standardized test scores, we can teach kids that success is more than test performance. Praise their efforts rather than their outcomes, and help them learn how to change their approach when things aren’t working.
Allow kids to make mistakes, and allow them to get better on their own. Instill a passion for learning for its own sake rather than as a necessary classroom evil.
Give your kids room to grow and develop on their own.
Growth Mindset Critical for Success
When you have the right mindset, you can accomplish nearly anything. A growth mindset is essential for a happy, successful life; the best part is that it’s within reach.
Use the tools offered to change your mindset. Realizing that your attitude isn’t set in stone and that you have the power to change yours is the first step to improving your self-esteem and building a better life.
What are you waiting for? Shift your mindset and revel in the possibilities that await.
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.