Why Having A Growth Mindset Matters

Volare | February 2021 Newsletter

“In any given moment, we have two options: To step forward into growth or to step back into safety” – Abraham Maslow

The Psychology Behind A Fixed Mindset And A Growth Mindset

How do you handle setbacks? Are you excited and ready to face them head-on? Do they make you feel stressed or discouraged?

If you chose the latter, a fixed mindset provides you with a safe zone to fall back into. These setbacks might make you look unprofessional or inept, which isn’t an accurate representation of the skills and values you bring. As a result, your mind shuts them down, protecting you from looking anything less than talented and keeping the spotlight on your achievements and potential.

For those who model a growth mindset, setbacks let you explore different solutions and find the best approach to the task or activity at hand. You are more focused on developing your skills over time and welcome mistakes as much as accomplishments. There is always something to look forward to because each day is a chance for you to learn and grow.

Fixed MindsetGrowth Mindset
Desires to “look” skilled, gifted, talentedDesires to develop skill
Sees ability as something set in stoneSees ability as something that can be improved over time
Avoids challengesEmbraces challenges
Gives up when encountering setbacksReflects when encountering setbacks
Ignores criticism; sees it as an threat to their abilityTakes criticism; sees it as a way to grow
Feels threatened by the success of othersFeels inspired by the success of others
Key differences between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset

A nationwide study found that teaching and modeling a growth mindset in school curriculums have lasting effects on students, where those who participated saw improved grades and overall increased engagement with the learning material. The growth mindset teaches that with the right strategies, the human brain is a malleable muscle that can get stronger through effort.

If a growth mindset matters, why should you consider moving away from a fixed mindset? As the name suggests, those with a fixed mindset believe their skills and abilities are fixed and cannot be changed. They either have it or they don’t. People often get stuck because they are unable to prove themselves in the face of setbacks and lose interest instead of finding the motivation to get better.

The fixed-growth mindset is a fluctuating spectrum, where you can have more of a growth mindset for one task but a fixed mindset for another. You don’t approach every task with the same mindset each time. When recognizing you are approaching a task with a fixed mindset, here are a few strategies to overcome it:

Challenge that fundamental belief. Disassociate yourself from the belief that mistakes define you as anything less than talented. You may not know or do everything correctly in the field or study in question and there is nothing wrong with that.

Learn from others. Seek information and skills that you don’t yet have, ask questions rather than shutting people down. 

Focus on the journey. Know that setbacks are part of the process. See if you can plan ahead to where setbacks could occur and what you can do to handle it. Praise learning, effort, and process rather than outcomes.

Reframe your thoughts. View setbacks as an opportunity or adventure and turn that sense of anxiousness into excitement and determination.

Breaking down the task is a great stepping stone in transitioning from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. WOOP, a motivation technique developed by Dr. Gabriele Oettingen, offers a simple guide that helps you align your purpose, determine possible obstacles, and create a plan of action.

Wish – A wish, habit, or behavior you’d like to address in a short period of time.
Outcome – What would come out of addressing that wish? What is the best scenario?
Obstacle – Name the biggest internal obstacle holding you back (emotion, habit, belief, etc)
Plan – What can you do to overcome that obstacle? Complete this statement: When (obstacle) then I will (plan).

What ways have you personally found that has helped you maintain a growth mindset?


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