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Do you have a fixed or growth mindset?

Can one adopt a growth mindset?

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As I get older I realise more and more how important a growth mindset is. I also notice how many people are rather shut off, frightened, scared and feel uncomfortable when asked to do something new in their personal life or at work!

I'm truly fascinated when I encounter people with a fixed mindset. I start asking lots of questions in the hope that I can discover what has made them this way.  

The common denominators usually are fear, negative past experiences - having had their fingers burnt - and possibly a predisposition somewhere. You know, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree kind of scenario. 

Carol Dweck, a lead researcher on the topic, states that as humans, we operate in both a fixed and growth mindset. Here are her definitions for both:

Fixed mindset: “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.” (Dweck, 2015)

Growth mindset: “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” (Dweck, 2015)

Let's look at the benefits of a growth mindset. In essence, it helps with living a happier, less stressful and a more successful life. Why? Because every opportunity - good or bad - is a new challenge and a chance to grow and progress. People with a growth mindset are not scared of making mistakes, looking stupid or receiving feedback. They often have more fun, excel with new experiences, stay curious and develop as people. They are more likely to achieve their full potential.

Being someone with a growth mindset, I often wonder if it's possible or what it would take for those with a fixed mindset to transition to a growth mindset. I don't have the answer. I honestly believe it is possible, but it'll require a lot of inner work and that's often what people shy away from. 

Mindsets are informed by our internal belief systems and those are often embedded through our childhoods and past experiences.

I cannot tell you whether I grew up with a growth mindset, as my childhood was troubled and I don't have many memories. I do know, however, that I became curious and once in psychotherapy, I was able to truly find out who I was, what I believed in and how I wanted to live my life. 

How can you cultivate a growth mindset?

Here's what I would do. 

• Be aware of the language you use around what you can and can't do, achieve or change. Notice when you use: 'can't', 'never', stupid', 'failure' and so on. Work on some more positive language around this subject.

• Think about a time you wanted to try something new, but didn't. Why? identify the reasons. See what emerges and how you could turn things around and maybe give it a try now? Always baby steps. Start slow and if you need more time, take it. It's not a race. You are trying to make changes within yourself and that takes time.

• I'm a great believer in asking for support. If you have a friend with a growth mindset, why not ask them to help you overcome some of your negative beliefs. Ask them if they will help you in something you would like to try, but are too scared to do by yourself. There is no shame in asking for help. We all have our issues and we all need help and support.

These are just a few suggestions. My wish for those with a fixed mindset is to just tip their toe into new opportunities, new experiences and see how that makes them feel. Who knows, they might really enjoy it.

A good Mapology Guide to help with looking at mindset is our How to choose a Brighter Tomorrow