How a change in mindsets can change your life.
Have you harnessed the power of the growth mindset? If you haven’t heard of that term before, I promise this read is well worth your time. Learning about the growth mindset has fundamentally changed my outlook on life, and I know it can do the same for you.
The growth mindset is based on the studies of Dr. Carol Dweck, a Stanford professor, and outlined in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In the book she discusses her studies of children who are tasked with solving a puzzle. The experimenters talk up to the kids how difficult the puzzle is, and an interesting thing happens: one group of the kids say that they don’t want to even try the puzzle, and the other segment says “Oh goody, I can’t wait!”. They ask for more and more puzzles, with a voracious appetite for challenge and stimulation. What Dr. Dweck discovers is that these groups are representative of two different mindsets in life: the growth and the fixed mindset.
In the fixed mindset, people believe they have a finite amount of something, such as intelligence. They don’t think that intelligence grows and changes — you either have it or you don’t. The issue with living in a fixed mindset is that once your “fixed capacity” reaches its limit, that’s it; you’re toast. You’ll hear these fixed people saying or thinking things along the lines of “well, I guess algebra is where my math skills end; I’m no good at calculus”. Once they hit a stumbling block, they give up.
The growth mindset, on the other hand, is framed around the belief that you can change and evolve in every element of your life. Those with a growth mindset see challenges as merely a hurdle on their road to success. They’re more likely to stay focused and keep going. A perfect example of someone with a growth mindset is Michael Jordan. While Michael Jordan is known as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, that wasn’t always the case. When Michael was young in his career, he didn’t make his high school varsity team at first and didn’t get recruited to his first choice college. While these setback are enough to slow most people down, Michael kept practicing. He practiced and practiced until one day he was the crème de la crème, and the player you know today. He even had an ad campaign focused on this concept.
This information on the fixed and growth mindsets changed my life in many ways, one of which being that it made me assess where I was at on the spectrum. I realized that while I was relatively growth focused in terms of intelligence, I took a very fixed stance in terms of my view of athletic ability. I relied on the fact that I was, “just never very sporty”. This realization has caused me to challenge that assumption, leading to so many great experiences. In fact, before publishing this article I was standing on top of a 14,000’ mountain in our home state of Colorado, not even out of breath! 5 years ago I would have called that impossible.
More importantly, this book has impacted the lives of those around me. I’ve shared this concept with many friends, loved ones, and workshop attendees. There’s at least one “aha moment” every time.
So, if staying in a growth mindset is so important, how do you stay there?
- Awareness of it is the first part of that puzzle. Step out of the moment to identify what mindset you’re in when you’re feeling particularly discouraged. That alone is game-changing.
- Begin to think of your brain as a something that grows and forms just as your body does when pumping iron. The strain and challenge makes you stronger. Identifying the growth as it happens helps to keep you in the right mindset.
- For any of you who are parents: start celebrating your kids for their progress, not their perfection. Don’t teach them that the end-point is the focus, otherwise that striving will lead them to a road of disappointment where the hurdles show them they’re not enough. Because of this book, I no longer celebrate how good my nephew is at piano. I instead say to him, “wow, buddy, I am so impressed by your dedication to your piano practice. I’ve really seen you improve so much”.
I wouldn’t be a coach today if I had not read this book and understood the growth mindset. It was just a building block in my journey, but an important one that taught me that there’s unlimited potential in each of us. With this in mind, I instill in my clients to appreciate the full potential for their careers.
If you’re interested in reading more, buy the book! It’s a great read. And stay growth focused, y’all!
Originally published at medium.com