How to develop a growth mindset (and why it’s important)

The concept of growth mindset has gained popularity in wider society in recent years. Originally developed in the late 1980s relation to how students are taught in schools, Carol Dweck’s now-famous TED talk bought the concept into the wider public domain.

So what is it? Why is it important? And more importantly, how can we develop it?

What is growth mindset?

A growth mindset is the fundamental belief that our most basic abilities can be further developed through persistence, dedication and hard work. We see our intelligence and our innate talents are merely the starting point. All of which has the knock-on effect of developing a love of learning and a resilience to setbacks.

Why is a growth mindset important?

The world of work has changed monumentally in the last two decades, as we’ve moved at pace away from the industrial and time-based economies and ways of working to the knowledge era. Whether you work inside an organisation, or you run your own business, or you’re a freelancer – how flexible your mindset is could make the difference in your ability to bounce back from setbacks, keep pushing forward and ultimately succeed.

7 ways you can develop a growth mindset

1) SET YOURSELF SOME CHALLENGING GOALS

Why not set yourself a goal for your professional development? One for your personal development? And a health goal? In the book The small B!G: Small changes that spark big influence, the authors suggest that people are more likely to follow through on their commitments and reach their goals when they have a specific plan for WHERE, WHEN and HOW they will go about achieving the goal, and this is made public. Another tactic that can help is to have an accountability partner – someone you share your goals with.

2) HAVE A SELF-IMPROVEMENT PLAN

As Hal Elrod says in his book, The miracle morning, “…if we don’t consistently invest time into our self-improvement our life will not improve”. If you’re unsure where to start, a helpful thing you can do is get feedback. For example, if you’re a leader of an organisation you can get feedback from a selection of your colleagues; or if you’re a solopreneur, you can get feedback from your clients. This feedback can help you pinpoint specific things to work on.

3) FOCUS ON MASTERING KNOWLEDGE

People with a growth mindset tend to be hungry for knowledge. First, think about how you prefer to learn. For example, you might learn more from listening to podcasts rather than reading books. Although, challenging your own preferences is another form of growth in itself. In his book, High performance habits, Brendon Burchard talks about progressive mastery. In this article in Success magazine, he outlines the 10 steps to achieve this.

4) TREAT MISTAKES AS LESSONS TO BE LEARNED

People with a growth mindset don’t beat themselves up when they make a mistake. Rather they take it as an opportunity to learn. Asking yourself “What did I do well that I could replicate in a similar situation?”, “What would I do differently, with the benefit of hindsight?” This isn’t to say you need to be like Mr Spock from Star Trek and just use cold, logical analysis. A recent study in the Journal of Behavioural Decision Making suggests that both logical assessment and emotional reactions are important when learning lessons from mistakes.

5) DEVELOP STRATEGIES THAT FACILITATE YOUR LEARNING

How much time do you devote each week to your learning? If you’re like the majority of leaders and business owners I work with then you’ll probably say not enough. The most successful people block out time for some kind of learning on a weekly, if not daily, basis. For example, you could set yourself the goal of reading a non-fiction book for 10 minutes each day. 10 minutes! That’s do-able surely? Another tactic is to block out time in your diary for learning. If your diary is at the mercy of others then you can make this a private appointment to yourself. For example, in that time you could go and watch a TED talk or attend a webinar while grabbing a drink in a coffee shop.

6) SEE SETBACKS AS LACK OF EFFORT RATHER THAN LACK OF ABILITY

People with a growth mindset review setbacks as being an issue of their lack of persistence and effort, i.e. something that can be improved, as opposed to a lack of ability, i.e. something that is extremely difficult to improve. This way of seeing things gives you back more control. It’s also a self-compassionate approach. Research by Karol Wasylyshyn and Frank Masterpasqua, in the International Coaching Psychology Review, states,

“…self-compassion was positively related to mastery goals in learning contexts, suggesting that self-compassionate individuals may be better able to see failure as a learning opportunity and to focus on accomplishing the tasks at hand”

7) REWARD AND RECOGNISE FOR EFFORT

A 2017 psychological study of students in schools in India, found that the type of incentives we use matters. As the research authors state,

“a carefully designed reward system that recognises effort and learning should boost the effect of the growth mindset intervention by signaling how individuals can change and improve their abilities”

For example, if you are a small business owner, you might have a goal of earning £10,000 of income a month. However, you might also be quite shy or maybe lacking confidence, so you could reward yourself for making a certain number of client contacts in a week. Or you might be a team manager where a team member is struggling with understanding performance data. However, you notice they proactively ask colleagues questions and also stay behind after work to attend a webinar they found. Subsequently, you show them recognition and give praise for this.

 

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