The Growth Mindset : Do You Have It Right?

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We have all heard it at least once in life or we might have read about it several times - the power of our mindset and the potential of our conscious and subconscious beliefs. It is a well-known theory that the way we think about ourselves, our self- concept has an imminent potential to propel our lives and determine our successes and failures in life. 

Most of these findings come from the works of Stanford psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck and her book Mindset: the new psychology of success, where she introduces Growth vs. Fixed: the two basic mindsets that determine our behavior and predict our success.

Even when you know that a positive outlook towards life aimed at success and personal growth is what we should be striving for, do you have it right? Does having an optimistic view and a positive outlook guarantee growth and success? How does your mindset affect love and relationships?
Are people inclined towards one of these mindsets or can there be a mix of both mindsets?

The Two Basic Mindsets

After more than two decades worth of research Carol Dweck synthesized her theory of two mindsets -  the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. These two mindsets which are imprinted on our brains at a very early stage in life shapes our personality and character. It defines our successes, our failures, and our happiness in personal and professional lives.

The Fixed Mindset

People with a fixed mindset believe that their talents, character, creative ability, and IQ are what they are born with and they cannot change it or improve it in any meaningful way. For them, success is just a measure of their abilities and they tend to avoid situations that may lead to failure or make them look stupid.

They see success as an affirmation of their inherent talents and skills which they believe, cannot be improved and therefore they strive for success at all costs and tend to avoid failure. They will want to prove themselves over and over again, as an assurance of their abilities, rather than learning from failures and mistakes.

The Growth Mindset

People with a growth mindset believe that their talents can be improved through hard work, practice, external inputs, and life experiences. They see failures as a learning platform where they can learn from their mistakes.

They don't see failure as a lack of their ability, but they believe that their talents can be improved and there is scope of improvement and success in the future. They believe in their potential and know that it is impossible to predict what a determined human being can achieve with years of devoted hard work and training. They don’t have an urge to prove themselves over and over like people with fixed mindsets.

Dr. Dweck writes that a growth mindset creates a passion for learning while a fixed mindset is all about the quest for approval. She says that for people with a fixed mindset –“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? “

Mindset in Education and Workplace

The growth mindset can be developed in students at an early age by praising and recognizing them for their effort, rather than praising them for their success which reassures their belief that they have to succeed every time to prove themselves. They can be encouraged to learn the value of challenging themselves and believing that they could get better at anything through constant practice and effort.

Dr. Dweck's study points out that the ability praised students were inclined to develop a fixed mindset and when given a challenging new task from which they could learn more, they tend to avoid it out of fear that it will expose their flaws and question their abilities. On the contrary, students who were praised for their effort accepted challenging new tasks from which they could learn from and tend to show a growth mindset.

This theory holds true in workplaces and professional aspects as well. When employees are praised for their effort at the workplace, failure doesn't seem like a lack of talent or intelligence for them. They conceive the idea that they have to put in more effort and tend to believe that they can get better and increase their productivity. Professionals who have a growth mindset will know that success is not a measure of their intelligence.

Mindset in Love and Relationships

We often hear people admire couples by praising them to be made for each other. We also hear people complaining that true love does not exist. Is there any truth in what they say? Dr. Dweck’s findings state that like IQ and talents, our love and relationships can also be developed with conscious effort and practice.

People with the growth mindset realize that true relationships don’t come in readymade packets. They prefer a life partner or friend who would help them grow and realize their flaws, provide suggestions for improvement, and motivate them to become a better person through continuous effort and learning. They realize that a relationship evolves as we move together in life.

The fixed mindset is the flag bearer of true love and the myth of the ‘made for each other’ concept. People with fixed mindsets expect a relationship to work like magic on its own, without any effort from them and when it doesn’t, they start complaining and blaming each other. They don’t look forward to personal improvement and learning experience from a friend or a partner.

Problems and conflicts can happen in any relationship and those with a growth mindset try to resolve them by accepting their imperfections and differences rather than blaming themselves or their partners. They realize that friendships and relations are about ‘making for each other’ rather than ‘made for each other.’

A growth mindset understands that every relationship requires effort and time to work out. It doesn't mean that something is wrong if you are unable to deduce your partner's thoughts or read their minds, you just need to learn how to communicate efficiently with each other.

In a fixed mindset, difference of opinions is seen as incompatibly and they don’t realize that no two people can ever have the same kind of thoughts and opinions on everything. When faced with such disparities, they deduce that the magic of love doesn’t work anymore and they assume their relationship to be a failure when they can’t complete each other’s sentences anymore.

Do You Have The Right Mindset?

What does having a growth mindset actually mean? According to Dr. Dweck people often have misconceptions about her idea of the growth mindset. She states that:

A growth mindset isn’t just about effort A growth mindset cannot be measured just by the effort put forth. Unproductive effort is not desirable. We need to try new strategies and seek help and input from others in our work when in doubt. It is vital to equally praise or reward learning and progress as well to yield the benefits of the growth mindset. Effort is just the path to our end goal of learning and improvement.

Having a positive outlook shall not be confused with the growth mindset. Being open-minded and optimistic does not necessarily mean that you have a growth mindset. You may think that you have a positive outlook on every aspect of life and work - a quality that you always had in you, but Dr. Dweck calls this as the false growth mindset.

All of us are a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets and it continually evolves with time as we gain more experience. According to her, we have to accept that a pure growth mindset does not exist. We may have different outlooks and mindsets when it comes to different aspects of life.
Good things will not happen like clockwork if you have a growth mindset.

A growth mindset encourages appropriate risk-taking and at the same time acknowledges that some risks don't work out. It emphasizes that it's okay to go wrong and fail at times and the whole point is to improve your awareness one step at a time and to ask yourself what you can try next.

Let’s rethink our mindsets by reflecting on what Dr. Dweck asks in her book:

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”— Dr. Carol Dweck.

Written by - Rahul Prem

Edited by - Nidhi Verma

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