The term ‘growth mindset’ was first introduced by Dr Carol S. Dweck who considered the difference in performance between those who thought potential was innate and fixed and those who saw it as something that could be developed.
The basic premise of a growth mindset is the belief that you can actively and significantly alter what you are capable of through continued learning and cultivating your abilities.
As with so many things, the greatest barrier to this is our own beliefs about our abilities and what we are capable of achieving. One of the most noticeable ways we do this is in the narrative we use to describe ourselves to others:
‘I am not very good at sport’
‘Numbers aren’t my strong point’
It can also manifest in the way that we talk about others' successes:
‘She can do that because she is naturally good at XYZ’
The result is that instead of seeing a challenge as something which we can work around, we treat it as permanent. This fixed viewpoint then acts as barrier to getting where we want to be.
The story we tell ourselves
The next time you are faced with a challenging situation, it is worth pausing and trying to identify what the voice inside your head is saying. Is it developing excuses around why you can't do something or is it encouraging you to take a chance and learn as you go?
What if, for example:
‘Numbers aren’t my strong point’
‘I am struggling with this spreadsheet. Who can I ask to explain it so I can develop my understanding?’
The challenge is no longer a permanent story, but a temporary obstacle that can be overcome, allowing growth to be achieved.
Why are these narratives so powerful?
The problem is that we are often more vulnerable at the point at which the challenge arises, making it more difficult to re-frame these statements in the heat of the moment. Human beings have a ‘negativity bias’ – we are designed to scan for threats which is incredibly useful if you are running from a sabre tooth tiger, but less so when the threat is a tight deadline!
However, the important thing to recognise is that a growth mindset can be developed when we are not under threat, allowing it to become a habitual way of thinking and therefore easier to access it when we need it most.
How to achieve a growth mindset
This exercise is very simple, but highly effective at supporting you to be able to focus on your strengths and interrupt negative thought patterns.
Make a list of three times when you have had to overcome a challenge in order to achieve something that you are proud of.
Keep this somewhere that is easy to access (e.g. your wallet).
The next time you are faced with a challenge such as an interview or difficult conversation, prepare beforehand by reading the list out loud to yourself.
By challenging the negative voice in your head with direct evidence, you can have an immediate and lasting impact. This allows you to see the challenge as something you can overcome. Furthermore, by doing this activity regularly and adding to the list, even when you’re not in a stressful situation, you will increase your self-belief and reinforce your growth mindset even further.
Thanks to Nicki Bass for sharing this article.
Author: Nicki Bass is the founder of Resilience at Work Ltd, a leadership and resilience consultancy. A former Army Officer, she helps professionals build resilience and improve their leadership skills through coaching and experiential workshops based on the principles of adventurous training. Visit www.resiliencework.co.uk to find out more.
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