A growth mindset is the type of mindset that, as you guessed, helps with your growth. It helps you to achieve and grow within yourself with any fixed limitations. To foster a growth mindset, you must first understand what it is and the steps needed to embody the type of mindset that allows growth. 

I will cover a little bit more about what a growth mindset is, and also share a few tips with you that will help you to maintain a growth mindset in most situations.

What is a growth mindset? 

Dr. Carol Dweck, who is a professor of psychology at Stanford University, has done research and has come up with the term growth mindset. What is the growth mindset you might ask? 

The Growth Mindset definition is all about explaining what people with a growth mindset believe that their brain and their talent is just a starting point. And from there they can actually achieve anything they want to, if they study, if they practice and if they try over and over again.

People with a fixed mindset – the opposite. They believe that their intelligence is just what they have got. That’s what they were born with. That’s the cards they’ve been dealt and there is nothing they can do about it. They believe that talent creates success. And that means that they often might not work hard enough or allow themselves to approach a challenge. They might give up easily. And they think that they can’t do anything about that.

Growth-mindset

The growth mindset examples 

When we approach challenges, people with a fixed mindset will try to avoid challenges. They will not even expose themselves to it because they believe that  whenever something is challenging, that they shouldn’t go down that path, that they can’t do it anyway. And that they don’t want to put themselves out there in a position where they will be challenged. 

People with a growth mindset, they embrace challenges. They know it’s an opportunity to learn, they know it’s an opportunity to grow, and they know that they can find a way to overcome these challenges. 

When we approach obstacles, people with a fixed mindset, they will give up really easily. So they might try one thing, but as soon as they hit some kind of dead end or an obstacle, they will just stop and they will think this is not for me. I’m just going to go back to my safe space. 

People with a growth mindset, they know that obstacles are just part of it. They know that they can find a way to navigate around it. They can be persistent when they have setbacks and they know that they just have to figure out a different way.

When it comes to effort for achieving certain things, people with a fixed mindset, they just believe that effort is not worth anything, that it’s just a fruitless process. And again, they will just stop persevering. They will stop trying if it gets too tough.  People with a growth mindset, they just know that effort is part of it. To achieve something, to become better, to achieve our next goals, it will take effort to get there. It’s the path to mastery.

When we face criticism or feedback, people with a fixed mindset will get really defensive and they won’t listen  and they will just push the feedback away. They will even ignore very useful feedback because they’re not really open to hearing about it because they don’t believe that there’s anything that they can learn or should improve because they believe, as I said before, that their talent is what they got from birth and there’s nothing they can do about it anyway. 

The traits of a growth mindset 

People with a growth mindset, they embrace feedback. They love hearing about things that they can do better and improve upon. They have learned that different people’s perspectives can give them some valid information for their success or for things that they could change or develop on their way. 

They embrace learning from criticism and they see it as information. They’re able to move away the emotions that come with feedback and just listen to the information. 

Here it’s important to say that you don’t have to take on board every feedback that you hear, because not every feedback is valid and not every feedback is asked for.

And not every feedback comes from a person that is actually in a position to provide you with feedback. If they’re not going down the path, if they haven’t done it before, why are they the right person to provide you with the feedback? So always ask yourself, who am I listening to? And do I really want that feedback from that person? But in a growth mindset,  in general, we embrace feedback because we know it’s really good information for us to improve and get better.

Recognise fixed and growth mindset

An important factor of how you can recognise whether you’re in a fixed or the growth mindset is when you look at the success of others. 

People with a fixed mindset feel threatened by the success of others. They start to talk negatively about others. They start to try and bring them down. They start to get really defensive about themselves and they might withdraw themselves and ignore anybody else. And they’re not able to acknowledge anybody else’s success.

People with a growth mindset. They’re celebrating somebody else’s success. They see it as a motivation. If they can do it, I can do it as well. If they can get there, how did they do that? What can I learn from it? How can this inspire and motivate me to try as well or to find my own way?

So they feel inspired when they see other people succeed.

You can imagine from the examples that I’ve just shared around approaching challenges, effort, success of others and feedback that we get, that if we are able to maintain a growth mindset, for the most part of it, we will be able to be more successful because we will be able to maintain this positive mindset that will allow us to try again, grow and learn.

It’s important to know here that we all have a fixed and a growth mindset. There will be certain situations when we are embracing the growth mindset and then there are situations where we are pushed in a fixed mindset. So it’s not true that one person is always in a growth mindset and other people are always in a fixed mindset. Most of us are always in a bit of a mixed bag depending on the situation.

It’s important to know here that we all have a fixed and a growth mindset. There will be certain situations when we are embracing the growth mindset and then there are situations where we are pushed in a fixed mindset. So it’s not true that one person is always in a growth mindset and other people are always in a fixed mindset. Most of us are always in a bit of a mixed bag depending on the situation.

growth-mindset

The brain and growth mindset 

But before we go into the steps that we can take to foster a growth mindset in ourselves, there’s three more things that I want to share with you from Dr. Carol Dweck’s research that is quite important to know and understand when we talk about a growth mindset. 

What she has found in her research is that the brain is malleable. We can actually build new connections in our brain. Our neurons can find new pathways as we learn new things.

So that means that if we practice something, we can build these new connections in our brain so that we have learned this for the next time.

The second important point she found was that there’s a strong connection  between mindset and achievements. She’s done some tests with school kids.

And there were two groups of kids where she tested that. And one group, they were actually told about a growth mindset. They were told that if they practice, if they’re trying, if they learn and they really try to put in the work that they are actually able to change their brains and build those new connections in their brain. So they can teach their brains to learn new things and become smarter.

The other group wasn’t told that. So the students who knew about the fact that the brain can grow and that we can develop, they actually were more successful on average because they believed that they could put in hard work to find new ways when things got challenging or tough, they knew that learning and studying could help them to improve the outcome.

The students that did not know about this, they didn’t know that their brain could develop, they were less successful.  They might’ve hit a certain setback or a challenge or things got a little bit tough and then they would have given up and they would have just thought that they’re not good enough.

So they were actually less successful than the students who believed that they could develop and grow their brain.

And the third thing that Dr. Carol Dweck has found out is that feedback can actually foster a fixed or a growth mindset. And the interesting part here is that the words we choose and how we provide feedback can make a big difference in how the other person is going to perceive their work. And if they’re going to learn to have a growth mindset or stay in a fixed mindset. 

Again, here she did some studies on students and she found that the students who were told and who were praised and given feedback on their achievements, were more prone to develop a fixed mindset. In contrast to the students that were praised for their hard work for the effort they put in for the creative ways they found to overcome challenges and obstacles. 

They learned that hard work and perseverance and getting creative and finding different ways to approach problems actually does pay off. So they were able to stay in a growth mindset because they learned that hard work is important for success. Whereas the other kids that were praised on their intelligence or paised on the results actually never learned to value that process.

And of course here, it’s important that we do praise the process when the outcomes also were successful, because we still need to teach ourselves and our kids and our team members that it’s still important, what the outcome is. But if we put our intention in the process and how they worked and how they figured things out, then they will learn that that’s what counts and that will teach them next time that they can rely on their problem solving skills for example.

How to develop a growth mindset

Step 1: Acknowledge that we have a mixed mindset

The first important point is to acknowledge that we have a mixed mindset. There will be situations where we are all stuck in a fixed mindset. And there are other situations where we have a growth mindset. It depends on what triggers us. What are the emotional reactions we have to certain circumstances that will either push us in a fixed or a growth mindset.

We should just acknowledge that it’s part of being human. After all, your fixed mindset is also a bit of a survival mechanism of your body. It’s telling you no, don’t go that way, it’s too dangerous. It’s going to be too hard. You’re not going to succeed back in the day that was probably very helpful. But today it can actually keep you from trying something new, putting yourself out there and being successful and learning new skills.

So acknowledging that we have a fixed mindset sometimes  is the first important point for developing a growth mindset. And there’s no shame attached to it. It’s part of being a human. So just acknowledge that we all have it.

Step 2: Build self awareness   

The second point is that we need to build our self awareness to understand and recognize what our triggers are. What are the situations that are pushing you into a fixed mindset? What are the situations where you find it really hard to maintain your growth mindset? Is it when you face setbacks, is it when you get criticism by someone, is it a certain person that gives you feedback?

Is it maybe that you compare yourself to others that triggers you to move into a fixed mindset?

For me, for example, it’s sometimes comparing myself to others. So I do see others succeed and I’m really excited and happy for them. It’s not that I don’t want others to succeed. It’s more that when I compare myself to others, I then start to doubt myself, talk myself down, think negatively about myself, feeling frustrated and just entering a lot of self doubt and a lot of bad, negative thoughts.

And that can push me into a fixed mindset where I’m ready to just give up because nothing is going to work anyway. So I now know that. I know that when I enter situations where I see other people succeed, I know that I need to be very aware of my emotions. 

So think about what your triggers are, what are situations when you start to have negative feelings towards yourself, when you start this negative self-talk and what was the trigger for that? Start to see how that trigger impacts your thoughts and emotions.

What did you say to yourself? What is the story that you’re telling yourself? What is it now that you’re making up? 

What are your behaviors in this fixed mindset?  Are you stopping your work? Are you running away? Literally? What is it that you’re doing  when you’re pushed by these triggers? 

That’s really important to know. And then here don’t use shame or judgment when you understand your triggers, just observe them and note them down because we want to be able to identify them to then in the next step, manage our triggers and our emotional reactions so that we don’t move into fixed mindset and instead we can embrace and stay in a growth mindset.

Step 3: Build emotional intelligence 

So the next tip is that we need to build our emotional intelligence so that we can grow our emotional self-control, build our confidence, motivate ourselves and stay adaptable.

So when you have identified your triggers, start to identify, what are the emotions that are triggered by it, and how do these emotions impact your thoughts and behaviors, as I said before. And then from here, start to look at what are my self regulation techniques that I can use to help myself come out of this emotion and manage this emotion. So it doesn’t impact how I act and behave. 

Could it be that you take 10 deep breaths? Could it be that you step out of the situation? Do you focus instead on your achievements? Could it be that you call a friend and have a conversation? Could it be that you step out and you do some meditation or you do some journaling? What are self-regulation techniques that you can use to help yourself regulate your emotions in that moment so that they don’t push you into a fixed mindset?

Then we also want to build your confidence. And here you can start to focus on your strengths. What are the things that you’re naturally doing really well? Because that will be your solution for finding ways to work around challenges and setbacks. And when things get tough focus on your strengths and how you can use your strengths to move around, to figure out new ways.

Manage your limiting beliefs. What are you telling yourself? What are the stories that you’re making up for yourself and then prove yourself wrong. Write three arguments against every limiting belief to prove yourself wrong, focus on your strengths and accept that we’re all perfectly imperfect in our own way.

Challenge yourself to regularly step out of your comfort zone. That’s a big, important step to building our confidence. We’re not born confident. We grow confidence by taking small risks at a time by stepping out of a comfort zone and then looking back and seeing that we actually did it. We managed it, it was tough and we felt a bit nervous, but we did it.

And then once we’ve done that several times, look back at your past achievements. Regularly reflect on how far you’ve already come. For me, when I feel like I’m stuck in this moment of doubt and I compare myself. I sit down and I write down all the things that have already been achieved in this month or in this year.

And I remind myself how far I’ve already come. And often I will then change my perspective because I’m like, huh, actually I’ve already done and achieved so much. So this one thing that didn’t quite work doesn’t define me. And if I’ve already achieved all these things, how can I use that, and the knowledge, and the development, and the skills that I’ve learned to overcome this next challenge?

Also, you got to work on your motivation and your self-actualization and here start to focus on your why, on your purpose. Why are you doing these things? Why are you trying to achieve this challenge? What is it that’s driving you to go there? Because if you can connect it to a bigger why it’s going to be much easier  to get back up and try again.

Set yourself, regular challenges and goals  that push you out of your comfort zone. Motivate yourself to always have goals and targets that you can work towards, so you don’t get stuck. Challenge yourself to try something new. Don’t play it safe and take some small risks.

Set yourself, regular challenges and goals  that push you out of your comfort zone. Motivate yourself to always have goals and targets that you can work towards, so you don’t get stuck. Challenge yourself to try something new. Don’t play it safe and take some small risks.

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Step 4: Stay optimistic and adaptable

And then lastly, you want to stay optimistic and adaptable. So it’s really important that we understand that failing is learning. So I love the term “flearning” because we fail and we learn. It’s just part of the path. It’s part of the road. It’s part of being human. We are all going to fail from time to time. If we’re putting ourselves out there, if we’re trying something new, if we want to grow, if we don’t want to stand still, then failure is just part of the journey.

If you play it safe and you stay in your safe bubble, yes, you might not fail, but you also won’t grow. So change the narrative around failure, welcome failure, and look at it: okay, great. What can I learn from this now?

see challenges as opportunities to try new things, listen to feedback as information. Stay open minded to other people’s ideas, take on board their feedback, ask other people for how they would do it, how they have done it maybe in the past. Ask for some people’s advice. That can be so important on our way to embracing the change, embracing the challenge and embracing the difficulties along the way.

Final thoughts 

Embrace change. Change is part of the journey. Change can be fun. 

So, how can you develop your optimism, your adaptability? It is by learning to embrace that things can get tough, but also learning to embrace the fun and trying new things and trying different challenges, working with other people and being a bit creative.

So just to recap,  to stay in a growth mindset, when things get difficult, we got to allow ourselves to embrace that it’s difficult, to acknowledge that this is not an easy path. We’re putting ourselves out there because we do want to grow and failure and difficulties and effort is part of this journey.

Become more self-aware around your triggers. Welcome your triggers because they’re information for you to then make decisions of how you can manage your emotions and manage these triggers so that they don’t push you into a fixed mindset. 

Manage your motivation, have a bigger goal in mind, connect it to your purpose, your bigger why. If you have this emotional connection, it’s going to be much easier to move back into a growth mindset and do it again.

Build your confidence, reflect on your achievements, reflect on your strength and really embrace who you are. What’s unique about you? What’s special about you and how you can overcome this challenge. 

And lastly, stay optimistic, welcome failure. It’s part of the journey.’ve If you failed then that’s your sign that you are trying to grow, that you’re not standing still. Welcome failure as a learning opportunity. And that’s a big part of staying in a growth mindset going forward.

I hope you found these tips helpful and the idea around a growth mindset. You can go much deeper than that. There’s also a great book by Dr. Carol Dweck. It’s called “mindset” that will help you to understand her research a little bit better, and also give you more insights in how you can develop your growth mindset.And I would love to hear your feedback. Feel free to send me a message on Instagram @annekoopmann_leadlikeyou or on LinkedIn or via my website www.annekoopmann.com. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.