The Growth Mindset — A Hidden Gem For The Modern Times
“You’re in charge of your mind. You can help it grow by using it in the right way.”
— Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
Hidden within the overwhelming clutter of today’s pollyanna platitudes, pushy motivational quotes & ‘positivity’ psychobabble; are those rare, science-backed, non-assuming, and life-changing paradigms that strike true. ‘The Growth Mindset’ is one such buzzword.
A phrase coined by Stanford professor, Dr. Carol Dweck, an American psychologist who has studied its manifestations and impact for over 30 years; the growth mindset thrives on challenges & ceaseless learning — it is a mindset where failure only exists as a stepping stone to development, insight & personal growth.
We’re not fans of introducing paradigm-shifting concepts in long, convoluted articles that leave you feeling more confused than ever before! That’s why, we’ve decided to break it into 5 simplified steps, taking a look at the growth mindset through 5 varied lenses.
Step One — The Growth Mindset vs. The Fixed Mindset
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”
― Henry Ford
‘The growth mindset’ is often explained in contrast to its polar opposite — a ‘fixed’ mindset. The main thing that differentiates these two mindsets is perspective. They see the same thing, event, circumstance, or reality with a fundamentally different approach.
For instance, Tina & Priya are classmates who have been asked to bake a cake in a home-economics class for the first time. Neither of them has ever tried baking before, but they both give it a shot. Tina, who possesses a fixed mindset, is severely daunted at the very beginning & in her panic forgets to add key ingredients, ending up with a cake that could have been better had she approached it calmly or with enthusiasm. Priya, on the other hand, is happy at the opportunity to try a new skill and gives it a fair shot — even applying some creativity to the way she decorates her cake with icing. She obviously lands up with a different result.
The fixed mindset, being an extremely cyclical pattern, results in Tina taking this experience as “Baking is just not my thing. I don’t have the natural talent for it, clearly” and she never approaches it again. She goes on to apply this attitude to many different areas of her life, often convincing herself that she is unskilled, unworthy, or ‘it’s just not meant to be’.
Priya, on the other hand, finds more satisfaction, success & joy in multiple facets of life & develops a strong trust in her own abilities through her willingness & enthusiasm to learn.
P.S: Think the ‘Growth Mindset’ isn’t for you, some things are just inborn? — well, that sounds a bit fixed! Consider watching your thoughts & look for ways in which they might be limiting you & setting unnecessary walls around your life. Just that much is more than enough to plant the seeds for a growth mindset!
Step Two — The Mantra of ‘Not Yet’
“Did I win? Did I lose? Those are the wrong questions. The correct question is: Did I make my best effort?” If so, he says, “You may be outscored but you will never lose.”
― Carol Dweck
Prof. Carol Dweck, in one of her extremely popular & insightful TED talks, beautifully illustrates the power of an experiment where students were graded as ‘Not Yet’ instead of ‘Failed’. Rather than a sad and scary actuality, failure becomes a beautiful thing when seen through the lens of a growth mindset.
Where Tina, with a fixed mindset, thinks of the setbacks in baking his cake as evidence of her inabilities; Priya, with a growth mindset, thinks something on the lines of ‘Oh, I just haven’t tried baking before and haven’t learned this. Not yet.’
A growth mindset does not view failure as a failure in its essence — it views failure as an opportunity & a stepping stone for learning, growth & development. Makes life look a lot more colorful & filled with exciting possibilities, doesn’t it? We think so too!
Step Three — The Brain Training
“Thinking is no more than a tiny aspect of the totality of consciousness, the totality of who you are.”
— Eckart Tolle
The brain, one of our most vital organs — is still, at its very core a muscle like any other. And muscles can be trained. The beauty of a growth mindset is that nothing is off the table in terms of trial & achievement — especially the mindset shift from fixed to growth!
The one thing all our personalities have in common is that a lot of it is shaped by experience & expectation. We are usually a product of the life we have lived. A lot of us, like Tina, may have a fixed mindset in certain areas of our lives. We may have tried our own version of baking a cake & we may have stopped at our first setback, instead of leaning into it. But the good news is, the moment our brain consciously learns that there is an alternative — we can, like Priya, choose to see the opportunity to learn & train our minds with every new challenge — we start developing a mindset of growth & perspective that is limitless!
As several spiritualists & psychologists have stated, the mind is a tool. We are much bigger and go way beyond our brains — we can train our minds starting today, to shift from a mindset of ‘lack’ to a mindset of ‘there is more than enough — I just need to find it’. You may have a fixed mindset about something today — most of us do. But you don’t have to stick to it. The first step to training your brain has already begun!
Step Four — The Trappings of ‘Perfection’
“Have no fear of perfection — you’ll never reach it.”
― Salvador Dal
We live in a fast-paced world where we are constantly barraged with messaging, apps, social constructs, and media, that pushes us to be ‘perfect’ — especially in comparison to others. This heavily contributes to fixed mindsets of a particular type, ones that state you should not even go close to doing something you are ‘just not good at’. Fostering a mindset where only those things that one is naturally good at are approached, inadvertently traps a person into a dangerous comfort zone — one where they make their world view small & narrow enough to fit their fixed mindsets & behaviors.
For Tina, the new challenge of ‘baking a cake’ and then in extension many other activities in her life that are new, mind-bending or outside what’s natural to her abilities; become a source of exaggerated discomfort, self-doubt & feelings of inadequacy and isolation. Priya, however, continues to try all sorts of new things without fear & retains a refreshing enthusiasm for pushing outside the box.
Some activities even go on to become cherished hobbies for her, or sources of inspiration & income in her future — skills she would not have even known about had she not tried with an open mind. A growth mindset is the first step to embracing the reality of imperfection — to knowing that nothing’s ever perfect & that’s the fun of life!
P.S: Being in nature & observing it, within its symbiotic, asymmetric cycles, is a great way to step into a mentality of not only accepting imperfection but appreciating it’s limitless capacities!
Step Five — The Growth Mindset in Relation to Others
“Comparison is the death of joy.”
— Mark Twain
In life & at the workplace, the growth mindset can contribute to a great team-spirit & elevate the quality of our interaction and collaboration with others. Ever so often, a fixed mindset is bound to foster a mentality projecting our own perceived shortcomings onto others. It is a mindset where being happy for others is difficult because the mind is not happy with itself. Celebrating other people’s success can become challenging because one thinks he/she is incapable of similar achievements.
As a recall to our previous hypothetical example, Tina’s belief that ‘baking is just not meant for her’ is further confirmed in her mind, when she sees her classmate Priya, who has also never baked before succeeding where she couldn’t. What Tina cannot see, however, is the stark difference in their perspectives, the difference in the levels of calmness with which the task was approached by the two girls that led to the distance between their outcomes.
A fully developed growth mindset, on the other hand, admires the good qualities in others & wants to learn from them. It fosters admiration & appreciation while being firmly focused on its individual path to personal growth and success.
A fixed mindset is an unfortunate full stop & a growth mindset is an ongoing journey — when applied to our work & our life, it can produce truly miraculous results while simultaneously taking a heavy & unnecessary weight off. There are undeniably going to be areas of each of our lives or aspects of our days where we apply one over the other — we are never always happy, perfect, or growing constantly. Sometimes taking a step back is also a part of it & being self-aware is a gift that keeps on giving!
Tell us about your experiences with your mindsets — are there any instances where you could have benefited more with a shift to a growth mindset? What unconscious patterns do you see in your loved ones & yourself? Share your stories and maybe we can all learn something from each other — let’s make the conscious effort to step into that growth mindset today!