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Moving From a Fixed to a Growth Mindset

“…Failure can be a painful experience. But it doesn’t define you.

– Carol Dweck

Have you ever experienced that overwhelming sense of failure after attempting something new and falling short? Perhaps you made a silent promise to yourself never to feel that way again.

Over time, you may have noticed a reluctance to take on new challenges, and the voice in your head started whispering,

“This is just who I am,” or “I’ll never be able to change.”

In her influential book, Mindset, psychologist Carol Dweck explores this phenomenon and introduces the concepts of fixed and growth mindsets.

According to Dweck, a fixed mindset perceives talents and abilities as innate and unchangeable. On the other hand, a growth mindset is founded on the belief that our fundamental qualities can be cultivated through our efforts. Sure, innate talent exists, but the remarkable ability to change, improve, and learn new skills is a massive target worth pursuing.

Let’s delve into three key takeaways from Dweck’s work on shifting from a fixed to a growth mindset:

1 Failure does not define you

Dweck encourages us to see failures as invitations for growth. This doesn’t diminish the pain or disappointment that accompanies a failed business venture, marriage, or creative project. Instead, it changes the narrative from “I failed; therefore, I am a failure” to “that was tough, and it didn’t turn out as I hoped. But now I know better and can do better next time.”

In a fixed mindset, challenges are perceived as terrifying dragons to avoid or escape. While adopting a growth mindset allows us to view challenges, the process, and even failures as companions on the journey toward personal and professional development. By embracing failures as stepping stones, and seeing them as valuable learning experiences we are able to shift focus from the outcome to the process. 

2 Embrace the Process 

A fixed mindset buys into the fallacy that we must be perfect or proficient at everything from the very beginning. For example, you sit down to try your hand at creative writing and become astounded and anxious because you can’t produce a novel like Marilynne Robinson on your first attempt.

In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell highlights our society’s obsession with “effortless” success stories, neglecting to acknowledge the countless hours of work and dedication invested by superstar athletes, tech billionaires, and exceptional artists.

A fixed mindset convinces us that talents and skills are unattainable, while a growth mindset recognises the value of effort and welcomes the challenge of discipline and honing our craft. By embracing the process we begin to see that effort over time becomes a catalyst to growth.

3 Suspend Judgement,
Choose Curiosity

In reality, we all struggle with the trappings of a fixed mindset. Instead of shaming yourself, suspend judgement and approach life with curiosity.

Dweck outlines five helpful steps to transition from a fixed to a growth mindset:

  • Understand that fixed and growth mindsets exist on a continuum.
  • Identify when the fixed mindset persona or voice is strongest (during times of stress, procrastination, new work opportunities, or relationship challenges).
  • Recognize the language and characteristics of the fixed mindset persona.
  • Educate this persona and extend a compassionate invitation to growth.
  • Enlist the support of others on this transformative journey.

Shifting from a fixed to a growth mindset is a transformative journey that requires time, effort, and patience.

Remember, our abilities are not set in stone. With dedication and continuous effort, we can learn, improve, and thrive.

Ask yourself, what step can you take today to nurture your growth mindset? Let curiosity guide you!