Are you intelligent? Are you a good employee? Can you draw well? Are you good at math? Are you patient?
How you answer these questions can give you a good idea of what kind of the mindset you have. By mindset, I mean a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
If you have a fixed mindset you tend to believe that intelligence is fixed. You believe that your personality is what it is and you are who you are. You believe that what you do, you do because that's just who you are. You are, well, fixed.
If you have a growth mindset, on the other hand, you believe that you can improve your intelligence, you can become a better parent or a better employee. You believe that you can improve your IQ, that you can learn patience, that you can even learn to do statistics if you’re not mathematically inclined. You don't hesitate to ask questions. Saying “I don't know” makes you smile with anticipation.
How you see yourself, and what kind of mindset you have, are inextricably linked. For instance, someone with a fixed mindset may fail at something and think, "I have failed; I am a failure." Someone with a growth mindset can fail and think, "I failed, I learned something, it’s good." People with fixed mindsets look for praise and avoid criticism. They look at their grade and never bother to learn what the correct answers were on the test. Whereas somebody with a growth mindset will not be as concerned about appearances and concern themselves more with the best way forward.
Your mindset affects how you treat others as well. Your kid does well in school and gets honours in grade 5 but then in grade 6 fails to meet the honour roll. If you have a fixed mindset you may believe that your child is not as intelligent as you thought she was. Your pride in her may diminish ever so slightly. Whereas, if you hold a growth mindset, you may believe that this is a great opportunity for your child to learn how to really work to earn her grades. It's not that she is unintelligent, it’s that now she has a chance to really dig in and learn how to learn.
If you have a fixed mindset and you're an employer, you might pigeonhole your subordinates: this one is smart, that one’s a hard worker, she is lazy. You will not be a very effectual mentor because you won't believe that nurturing an employee will have any effect. There are good employees and there are bad employees and there’s nothing much you can do about it.
When two people with different mindsets get married, there’s bound to be serious problems. The fixed-mindset person will seek accolades and praise. The growth mindset person will look towards improvement and acknowledging shortcomings and see them as challenges not threats.
In the book “Mindset” by Carol S. Dweck PhD, the notion of fixed and growth mindsets is beautifully described. It's a simple idea, fixed versus growth, but it’s powerfully influential on the way that we think of ourselves and others, as well as on the decisions that we make. By understanding ourselves we are better equipped to become more flexible, more positive, and more effective.
Question: How do you think your life might change if you moved closer to a growth mindset?