Sometimes, my clients come to me because they are uncomfortable with what their role requires them to do. “I have never been good at it. That is just who I am or not who I am! It is impacting me big time.” They feel stuck and frustrated because they have convinced themselves that not having a particular skill is a part of their identity. At this moment, they are in a fixed mindset for this skill, i.e., they believe that their abilities are static and that no matter their efforts, they will not improve.

It is a fascinating phenomenon because my clients are intelligent, ambitious, hardworking, experienced professionals. As we work together, they prove themselves wrong by learning the skill/adopting new behavior. Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success explores how an individual’s underlying beliefs about their intelligence and ability to learn to impact their performance. She talks about two mindsets – Growth and Fixed. A growth mindset means believing you can develop your skills and talents through your efforts. On the other hand, a fixed mindset is the belief that we inherit qualities such as intelligence, talents, and personality characteristics. The table below summarizes behaviors resulting from the two mindsets.

Fixed mindset behaviorsGrowth mindset behaviors
Desire to look smartDesire to learn
Avoid challengesEmbrace challenges
Give up easilyPersist in the face of setbacks
See efforts as fruitlessSee efforts as a path to learning
Ignore negative feedbackLearn from criticism
Feel threatened by the success of othersFeel inspired by the success of others

For people with a growth mindset, failure is a problem to face and learn from.

Given below are some common myths about Growth Mindset –

  • You either have it, or you don’t. A growth mindset isn’t something that people are always born with. It can be developed, and people may have varying approaches to challenges. They may have a growth mindset at certain times and a fixed mindset at others, e.g., they may have a fixed mindset about their driving abilities but a growth mindset about their dancing skills.
  • A growth mindset is about being positive. Instead, a growth mindset means learning from experience/feedback and improving with practice.
  • Praise builds a growth mindset. It depends on what you’re praising. The important thing is how a person approaches a challenge, not their hard work or success. 
  • A growth mindset means having a ‘can-do attitude’ no matter what. It must take people’s cognitive capacity and resources in mind. No one has infinite resources.

Here are five ways you can develop a growth mindset –

  1. Do not let setbacks keep you from working to improve.
  2. Speak up when something is not working and ask for support.
  3. Tap into the power of ‘yet.’ There will always be skills or subjects you are not good at yet. However, with practice and perseverance, you can improve in these areas. Your weaknesses are strengths you have not developed yet.
  4. Learn something new that you are not already good at. It need not be work-related.
  5. Make mistakes. You will not get everything right the first time of trying. Allow yourself to make errors and then learn from them.

To encourage a growth mindset in your team –

  1. Celebrate learning, progress made, lessons learned, and recovery from mistakes.
  2. While sharing your story, don’t just talk about your victories. Share the setbacks and how you overcame them too.
  3. Normalize the discomfort associated with new things.

To summarize, we all have times when we feel like we will never get better at something or that we are destined to fail at a particular task. However, we become a failure only when we start assigning the blame to someone else. A growth mindset hugely impacts how people approach challenges and how they feel about themselves. To cultivate a growth mindset, acknowledge setbacks and use them as learning experiences, seek support when needed, believe that you can develop skills over time, and actively learn new things outside your comfort zone. When fostering a growth mindset within teams, celebrate progress, learning, and sharing stories highlighting setbacks and how you overcome them. By adopting a growth mindset, individuals and teams can unlock their full potential, continuously improve, and approach obstacles with resilience and a desire to learn.