Growth mindset. You may have never heard of it, but it’s an essential part of success. And the concept behind it may not be unfamiliar.
Growth Mindset, Defined
Coined by Stanford professor of psychology Carol Dweck, Ph.D., growth mindset is the term for the belief that individuals can refine their basic abilities through hard work and dedication. Dweck considers these to be qualities like creativity, talent, character, or intellect.
The opposite, also termed by Dweck, is “fixed mindset.” In short, individuals with a fixed mindset assume their qualities are unchanging. They believe they cannot further develop any of their abilities and are essentially stuck with what intellect and talents they were born with.
So why is having a growth mindset important?
The benefits of adopting a growth mindset are heavily backed by research. To sum it up, individuals who subscribe to a growth mindset tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed one. In one study, students who learned that intelligence is malleable through a 50-minute growth mindset course earned higher grades than students who took the 50-minute control course.
Individuals who have more of a growth mindset also tend to be more knowledgable and skilled in what they pursue. Knowing that pushing themselves will make them better, those with a growth mindset are eager to embrace new challenges and are unafraid to fail.
More Complex Than You Think
As simple as the definition is, there are misconceptions about what growth mindset truly entails. In the Harvard Business Review, Dweck discussed how many mistakenly equate growth mindset with inherent optimism.
“People often confuse a growth mindset with being flexible or open-minded or with having a positive outlook — qualities they believe they’ve simply always had. My colleagues and I call this a false growth mindset,” she wrote.
Dweck also noted the impossibility of having a “pure” growth mindset. “Everyone is actually a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, and that mixture continually evolves with experience,” she wrote. Much of this can be owed to the number fixed mindset “triggers” present in school or in the workplace. These triggers include criticism, overwhelming difficulty, and relative underperformance. Experiencing one or multiple of these at once can induce a kind of insecurity or defensiveness that can discourage an individual to seek further improvement.