Want to improve your life in some way?
Perhaps you desire a tolerable (or even enjoyable!) job, more money to spend on leather-bound books, a sexy beach body…luckily, it’s all within reach.
If you adopt the correct growth mindset behaviours, any seemingly fantastical goals can become reality.
Fixed vs growth mindset?
In the book ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’, Carol Dweck introduced the concept of the fixed vs growth mindset, which determines our capacity for personal development.
Just as with inherited traits, people with a fixed mindset largely believe their abilities are predetermined and immovable.
Such disempowering mindsets often become a self-fulfilling prophecy,
“Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over […] Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?”
Those with a growth mindset, in contrast, don’t place such restrictions on themselves, believing in the neuroplastic powers of the mind and body to adapt and accommodate to new demands.
“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.”
Which mindset do you think is more effective?
Growth mindset behaviours
If we want to change our current circumstances, we must adopt a set of growth mindset behaviours in service of our aim.
Here’s a high-level overview, with practical takeaways you can apply today.
Most growth-minded behaviours are underpinned by curiosity.
Transforming yourself anew requires getting interested in the world and identifying potential that might not yet exist.
I started this website to explore various topics I was interested in and chart my progress.
In the process, I understood the technical aspects of creating a blog, connecting it to a hosting provider and using a content management system, all growth skills I can now apply to other endeavours.
Takeaway – we live in a world of information abundance. Google a topic you’re interested in, from beekeeping to cooking, and either read an article or watch a YouTube video on the topic.
Even with curiosity fuelling our endeavours, growth can’t occur without hardship.
Likely your goals or aspirations aren’t within easy reach but require significant stretch to achieve. Otherwise, what’s the point?
A growth-minded individual identifies these challenges and actively embraces them.
In Ryan Holiday‘s book, The Obstacle is the Way, he draws on Stoic philosophy dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans to demonstrate the power of this timeless advice.
How do you spot obstacles? Identify the fear that they inevitably create.
Takeaway – do something scary every day to develop your ability to embrace and overcome obstacles – if you’re an introvert and want to work on your social skills, for example, try talking to one new person a day.
As with challenge, no change happens without pain.
Those unwilling to leave their familiar comfort zones are firmly entrenched in the fixed mindset.
If you want a new job, for example, you have to suffer repeated rejection. Not nice.
When I began the process of changing careers from physio to marketing, I contacted countless potential clients, only to face hard no’s or no replies.
The ability to endure such inevitable setbacks is key.
Takeaway – practice at least one uncomfortable behaviour each day to increase your confidence. I do daily cold showers, because it builds internal credibility.
Just as we should actively embrace challenge and seek discomfort, failure is a completely natural part of the process.
It’s impossible to do hard things and operate at the edge of our abilities without sometimes falling flat on our face.
I’ve started numerous websites previously and some of them have been complete flops – although it’s a shitty feeling when it happens, it’s our relationship with our actions that defines our ultimate outcome.
If you’re outcome orientated and view everything as a binary pass or fail, your disappointment will likely cause you to quit at the first failure.
If you’re more process orientated, however, you’ll likely chalk it up to experience and continue on, just like a toddler trying to walk for the first time.
“Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm” – largely misattributed to Churchill, when in fact, the source is unknown.
Instead of turning back at the first failure, it’s much better to learn from your experience and course-correct as necessary.
A belief in your ability to learn is, therefore, essential.
Fixed mindset individuals often assume that they can’t effectively absorb new information, which is patently untrue.
Research clearly demonstrates our neuroplastic adaptation abilities at any age, which means you’re never too old to learn new tricks.
Processing information, however, is a skill like any other, and by repeating this behaviour frequently enough, you can easily improve your retention methods.
Takeaway – Make notes on whatever you’re learning and build an information retention resource for later use. Use pen and paper, online notetaking app like Notion or simply voice memos.
A solution mindset
In my experience, a growth mindset is solution orientated, whereas a fixed mindset is problem seeking.
This largely comes from creating artificial excuses.
Problems provide the apparent justification for giving up, when in reality they’re largely motivated by fear and in many cases, aren’t actual problems at all.
If you’re routinely spotting roadblocks and giving up, ask yourself whether they’re immovable objects or if there’s a potential workaround allowing you to make progress.
Remember that problems are part and parcel of any new endeavour, and although they slow you down, they’re often prime learning opportunities.
In this way, they force you to develop your objective thinking skills, which only further enhance your personal growth.
In hindsight, they also add colour to the journey, allowing you to reflect on previous struggles with affection and a story to tell.
Takeaway – write a pre-mortem, highlighting potential problems you might encounter in your new endeavour, before brainstorm new strategies to overcome them. This ensures that you’re balancing your critical eye with creative solutions.
No successful, growth-minded individual is passive, hiding from the fear of starting something new.
Instead, they’re taking action, however messy or unrefined it may be.
It’s easy to try and get too intelligent about the process, endlessly researching your options and engaging in busy work – essentially this is just a delaying tactic to avoid the pain and discomfort of learning new skills.
Often it’s impossible to have the perfect plan in place before we begin anyway, and this is where most perfectionists go wrong.
It’s far better to start before you’re ready than to procrastinate for fear of getting something wrong.
If you jump straight in and make mistakes, you’ll have more data points to refine your approach.
The power of repeated action soon starts compounding and you’ll be surprised at the progress you can make.
When I reflect on my previous articles, I’m always surprised by how many words I’ve written – much of it could be improved, but equally, I’m honing my wordsmith skills through sheer output and repetition.
Takeaway – do something you’ve been procrastinating on today – it doesn’t matter if it’s imperfect – simply take action.
It’s easy to fall into fixed mindset syndrome.
Perhaps we’ve reacted badly to previous failure and criticism and have low self-esteem.
But don’t allow yourself to be defined by the past.
Instead take responsibility for the present so as to create a more desirable future.
The fact is, we’re clay ready for shaping and with the correct growth mindset behaviours, we can embrace a more proactive outlook at any age.