I always wonder if the Growth Mindset is one born innately or one nurtured through years of situational experiences that push your comfort zone. For me, various things have lead to the development and need to have a growth mindset in my everyday life. A personal desire to always enjoy the things I do, a need and desire to have change in my life (a slight ADD personality may be to blame here), a push for lifelong learning and curiousity, and the need to be valued as a member of a community have all been part of developing my own growth mindset.
Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University, has spent her life studying growth mindset, challenge based learning, and various other psychology based problems regarding mindset. Something that struck me was how growth mindset was defined; simply put, when students and educators have a growth mindset, they understand that intelligence can be developed, failure needs to be embraced, and most importantly, that it is possible to control your mindset.
I do strongly believe that we, as children, are innate natural-born learners. We have a growth mindset, we explore new boundaries constantly, and failure is an everyday occurrence that needs to be overcome and is…or else we would never walk, talk, eat, play, you get the point.
My question is, where then does the fixed mindset come from? Why is it, that as some people get older, they stop challenging themselves? Specifically, in their professional lives.
I wanted to explore the barriers, and here are some that I came up with:
- The inner ‘Gremlin’ (Check out ‘Taming Your Gremlin’ by Rick Carson) or the internal ‘you’ that convinces you that it is not possible to step outside your comfort zone because it might result in failure.
- The ‘We’ve always done it this way’ attitude that stifles new ideas when older systems are comfortable
- Culture and societal pressures within the workplace and within our lives that set up an environment where fixed mindsets persist and the outliers become only those who wish to grow.
- Administrative barriers – people in leadership roles pushing against change from grassroots initiatives within the staff
- Ownership of speciality areas within the organization that frowns on collaboration. The ‘this is my course’ attitude.
- New challenges that arise outside of a job which shifts the focus and growth (perhaps a Growth mindset elsewhere in life)
I am a ‘science guy’ and it is quick to notice that these barriers would simply perpetuate themselves in a positive feedback cycle. That is, until an unbalance makes a ripple that disrupts the cycle. This leads me to what I call the ‘reincarnation’.
So how do some break the cycle, or perhaps never enter it? As like many ‘self-help programs’ there must be a step by step system. In an attempt at understanding why and how, I have come up with ways that growth mindset can be nurtured back to health.
- People need tools to learn and grow
- People need motivation. It can come in many forms. One form being, passionate people with ideas and a good understanding that can lead people from a fixed mindset, to a motivated mindset, and finally to a growth mindset that is internalized and self-motivated for the future. Sometimes, it’s all about getting the ball rolling or acknowledging achievements.
- People also need time to reflect, look back, and look forward
- Growth is relative to the person. Just because perceived growth seems minor, it is still an accomplishment and this needs to be acknowledged.
- Challenges and failures must be supported, understood, and built upon through collaboration.
My reincarnation or perhaps re-motivation of my own growth mindset came in the form of Cohort 21; a well designed, well lead PD program developed to nurture growth and change mindset to fit learning in the 21st century. For me, this was the ‘ah ha’ moment.
In the name of science I have put together a bit of a Mindset survey. Please feel free to add to the growing results!