Growth Mindset: 6 Keys To Unlock Your Potential

I learned something really amazing today.

This afternoon I interviewed Dr. Carol Dweck, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation. She's a guest expert for my upcoming Sticky Habits Course.

Dr. Dweck has spent decades researching achievement and success, and through her research she's discovered something groundbreaking — the power of our mindset. She has learned that talent and skills aren't the only elements of success. A major factor is whether we have what she calls a “fixed” mindset or a “growth” mindset.

Those with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence, qualities and abilities are set in stone, but they have an urgency to prove those qualities over and over. The main goal is to appear smart and capable and to avoid failure at all costs. When these people do fail, they view it as a direct measure of their competence and self-worth. People with a fixed mindset are often overly sensitive to appearing wrong or being judged.

People with a growth mindset have another approach to life entirely. Says Dr. Dweck in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, “In this mindset, the hand you're dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”

With a growth mindset, you believe change is possible and even necessary. You don't view failures as the end of the world — you see them as opportunities for learning. You are comfortable with taking risks, and you even seek out calculated risk opportunities. You want to challenge yourself to try something harder, stretch beyond your perceived limits, and go for things others might not think you're capable of achieving.

So where do you see yourself — as someone with a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?

Dr. Dweck's research has shown having a growth mindset creates a love of learning and a resilience that's essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities. A  growth mindset provides motivation and productivity in business, education, personal habits, relationships, and sports.

If you have more of a fixed mindset and see the benefit of a growth mindset, Dr. Dweck has discovered you can learn the skills of a growth mindset and practice them until they become your more natural way of thinking and perceiving the world.

Dr. Dweck has some suggestions on how to expand your growth mindset:

1. Begin with awareness

Begin to catch yourself in a fixed mindset. Notice how you react to challenges, failures, or opportunities for taking risk. Watch how often you limit yourself, undermine your potential, or bristle when someone suggests you are wrong. Notice your self-talk when you make a mistake or fail at something. Awareness is the beginning of change, so make note of the occasions and situations that trigger your fixed mindset reactions.

2. Push through challenges

When you're attempting something new, and you come to the point when you're bored, tired, hungry, or mentally stretched, push yourself to work a bit harder or longer. Intentionally put yourself in a growth mindset, and see yourself accomplishing or completing the task. Rather than giving up as soon as things get tough, tell yourself that you can do it and keep going.

3. Seek constructive criticism

No one likes to hear criticism, but quite often constructive criticism is just what we need to make a big leap in our knowledge or abilities. Find people whose opinion you trust and admire, and ask for constructive criticism about your work, a project, your abilities, etc. Listen openly to what they say without defensiveness, and apply their suggestions.

4. Review your failures and mistakes

Most of us like to bury our past failures and mistakes because we don't like to feel bad about ourselves. It's embarrassing and causes shame or regret. But use the growth mindset to reevaluate your past mistakes. What can you learn from them? What can you use for your growth? How can you apply what you've learned to future goals?

5. Examine your words

Take a look at your self-talk, especially when you feel you've not performed well or made a mistake. Do you say things like, “I'm a loser. I will never accomplish that? It's just too hard for me?” Dr. Dweck has found in her research by simply using the words “yet” and “next time,” you can ignite the growth mindset and see more potential in yourself. Rather than thinking, “I can't do this,” instead say, “I can't do this yet,” or “I will accomplish it next time.” This puts a positive spin on your attitude and trains your brain to remain open to challenges.

6. Blast through the blues

When you feel depressed, rather than using the feelings as an excuse to do nothing or indulge in your unhappiness, work even harder. Push yourself to do something useful. Think about effort as a positive, constructive force rather than something that further drags you down.

Begin applying these strategies in your daily life, and you'll see how you transform from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. You can accomplish and achieve far more than you even dreamed of as you begin to see how much potential you have for change and growth.

If you want to learn more about Dr. Carol Dweck, you can connect with her on her site, Mindset or join us for The Sticky Habits Course where I'll be speaking with her personally in a fascinating interview about the growth mindset and habit creation.

photo credit: Tomasz Stasiuk via photopin

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 7 comments
  • Ron Clendenin

    You made a great point about failure and mistakes. Being honest and open about mistakes is necessary part of growth. It also attracts others to you when we share vulnerably our failings.

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