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5 Ways to Build a Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, spoke about the difference between growth and fixed mindsets at The School of Life event in London on 7th July.

Through more than three decades of systematic research, Carol has been working out why some people achieve their potential whilst others who are equally talented don't. She found that the key isn't ability, it's whether you look at ability as something inherent that needs to be demonstrated or as something that can be developed.

She has discovered that people with fixed mindsets believe that their achievements are based on innate abilities. As a result, they are reluctant to take on challenges. People with growth mindsets believe that they can learn, change, and develop needed skills. They are better equipped to handle inevitable setbacks, and know that hard work can help them accomplish their goals.

This is perhaps and over simplification of the traits of different mindsets, so what is a growth or fixed mindset?

Carol Dweck says "In a fixed mindset people believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that's that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset people understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don't necessarily think everyone's the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it."

Fixed Mindset

People with a fixed mindset believe their abilities are fixed and cannot be developed. These people also believe that talent alone creates success. They see effort as a sign of weakness rather than as a positive element of life needed to reach one's full potential.

Growth Mindset

People with a growth mindset believe they can develop their brain, abilities and talent through hard work. These people embrace a love of learning and resilience. This creates a love for learning, a drive for growth and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishments.

So how can you help a person to develop a growth mindset?

Carol and her colleagues have found that much depends on the kinds of encouragement that people are given during their lives.

They have conducted research to examine the effects of praising children in different ways after the children had, for example, completed a puzzle.

- One group of children were praised for their attitude and application. They were told things like: "That's a really good score. You must have tried really hard."

- Another group of children were praised for just for their natural abilities. They were told things like: "That's a really good score. You must be smart at this."

Researchers found that the first group were more likely to develop a growth mindset. The second were more likely to develop a fixed mindset. Certainly ability is vital, but Carol's findings have implications for the way we encourage people.

Encouragement therefore calls for focusing on the characteristics people demonstrate to achieve their goals, rather than simply saying they are clever:

- the attitude they adopt, as well as their ability.

- the hard work they put in, as well as their gifts.

- the resilience they show, as well as their talent.

It may sound a little clichéd, but it seems that it's all about the journey. Carol believes that people with a growth mindset love the process of learning and

She says "The growth mindset does allow people to love what they're doing – and to continue to love it in the face of difficulties. The growth-minded athletes, CEOs, musicians, or scientists all loved what they did, whereas many of the fixed-minded ones did not. Many growth-minded people didn't even plan to go to the top. They got there as a result of doing what they love. It's ironic: The top is where the fixed-mindset people hunger to be, but it's where many growth-minded people arrive as a by-product of their enthusiasm for what they do."

Very interesting stuff and certainly something I'm going to think about more when I'm praising my three and a half year old son! Where do you think you sit? What do you think you can do to start moving towards a growth mindset? Tell us, we're always interested to hear what you think.

Sharon Stephens
Practically Positive



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