Fostering a Growth Mindset

Many of us have probably heard about “fixed” vs. “growth” mindsets, but may be unclear just what they mean. If you’re trying to determine which mindset you exhibit most, think about the difference between these two statements: “I’m just bad at math” vs “I need to do more practice problems.” The first statement suggests that the person believes they are inherently bad at math. However, the second statement suggests that the skill can be cultivated through perseverance.

According to Carol Dweck, Stanford Psychologist and author of the Mindset theory, “Individuals who believe their talents can be developed -- through hard work, good strategies, and input from others -- have a growth mindset.” The growth mindset, above all else, is about fostering an adoration and passion for learning. This intuitively makes sense - the more you’re willing to learn, the more likely you are to persist through challenges you’ll face throughout life.

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While maintaining a growth mindset sounds pretty straightforward, it’s easy to fall into the “false growth mindset.” The false growth mindset is essentially when you think you’re constantly maintaining a growth mindset or you misunderstand what the growth mindset is. Dweck says it’s impossible to have a growth mindset about everything all the time because there are times where you’ll face unexpected fixed mindset triggers. In order to truly develop a growth mindset you must first acknowledge your fixed mindset triggers so that when you encounter them you know. Using our example from above, you can prevent yourself from falling into a false growth mindset by acknowledging feelings of frustration around math. Once you’ve identified that this frustration pulls you into a fixed mindset, you can then work on a plan of action to work through your challenges in math (i.e. by completing practice problems in the subject area with which you’re struggling).

When you think of intelligence as a skill to be refined and a product of persistent effort, you’re expanding your breadth of knowledge and skills. According to Big Think Edge, an organizational development platform, having a growth mindset is critical to innovation as “[l]earning new skills encourages the application of different solutions or points of view to traditional work challenges.”

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