When it comes to the mind, there is so much the average individual doesn’t know. Take the idea of a growth mindset, for example.
Many believe that our own abilities and our intelligence remained fixed after some point in time. Some think this happens at birth, while others may think it’s after college or university.
The reality, however, is that our minds are constantly growing and adapting. How much depends entirely on our view of intelligence and learning.
These ideas came surfaced when Stanford University’s Carol Dweck researched the subject. In her book on the matter, she talks about these notions and also about a solution to the issues of mental stagnation.
That solution is the growth mindset.
I’ve shared information about this before, but for this post, I want to explain some dos and don’ts of nurturing a growth mindset.
After all, one does not simply follow one trail and begin to grow. There are various traps along the way — namely, the false growth mindset.
What Is the False Growth Mindset?
At the start of her research, there were two mindsets that Carol Dweck stumbled upon. These mindsets were the growth mindset and the fixed mindset.
How you determined which mindset you fell into was based on how you faced your failures and challenges.
All of these ideas are explored by Dweck through her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
However, the question of where this false growth mindset comes from was where Dweck returned to in order to further explore this topic.
In 2016, she uncovered something called the false growth mindset. In her words, a false growth mindset is:
“…saying you have a growth mindset when you don’t really have it or you don’t really understand [what it is]. It’s also false in the sense that nobody has a growth mindset in everything all the time.” – Carol Dweck
“Everyone is a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. You could have a predominant growth mindset in an area but there can still be things that trigger you into a fixed mindset trait… So I think we all, students and adults, have to look for our fixed-mindset triggers and understand when we are falling into that mindset.”
It can be easy to assume you have a growth mindset, simply because you are aware of the concept, but that does not mean you will not stumble along your journey of growth.
Why Is It so Bad?
We can break the problem down into three simple points:
- First, if you have a false growth mindset, it means you don’t have a grasp of the area you’re trying to improve upon. This, in turn, leads to distorted applications of the growth mindset.
- Second, improper use of a growth mindset can lead to undeserved praise. Praising someone despite a failure only makes the problems worse, as it’s processed as a consolation prize rather than a reward.
- Finally, while a growth mindset will encourage us to learn, any other mindset can distort our view of learning. Many fixed mindset individuals don’t bother studying further and improving skills. The same can be true for those with a false growth mindset.
Dos and Don’ts of a Growth Mindset
Fortunately, there are remedies to a false growth mindset. Here are some key dos and don’ts that you can use to ensure that you are developing the proper mindset.
1. Do Change How You Praise
Whether it’s to yourself or to someone else, how you phrase praise matters to how others interpret it.
One of the key differences between those with fixed mindsets and growth mindsets is how they’ve been praised.
How you can get a true growth mindset over a false one depends on how you word your praise. So, to help you with praise phrasing, here is a chart that touches on person- and process-praise.
The key is to focus on praising the process that leads to the outcome. This is a different approach than praising only the outcome or the effort that was put into it.
This prevents you from a false growth mindset, as most teachers who adopt the false method will focus on praising exclusively effort.
2. Do Emphasize Learning Goals
Learning goals are the goals that spark curiosity and push someone forward. You can say these goals are all effort-based, as they require more action.
The action part is important because learning isn’t all about hitting a certain test score or grade in a class. Learning goals focus on understanding the topic for the sake of it in order to complete a task.
For this reason, you want to avoid performance-based goals like getting a certain score or achieving a specific grade.
Of course, we all want to pass, and that’s important, but our focus should be on learning more so than on hitting a specific number.
3. Don’t Praise Effortless Achievement
What I mean by this is don’t focus so much on finishing something as quickly as possible. Nor should you dish out praise if something is passed to you in record time.
If something is obtained without so much as breaking a sweat or learning anything, then it wasn’t time well spent. In those situations, it’s worth looking back at your goals or moving on to something else.
4. Do Attribute Success to Effort
While we should be avoiding some effort-based praise, the fact still stands that you need to put in the effort to succeed. If you’re not working hard and smart, then you aren’t going to be able to solve your problems.
With this in mind, be sure to incorporate strategies, plans, and setting strong goals that will bring you to your version of success.
5. Don’t Label Yourself or Others as “Smart”
Yes, people can be intelligent, but there isn’t a need to bring that up. The word “smart” suggests that you or the other person has an innate ability of higher intelligence.
And while our innate abilities do matter, a lot of us overestimate how important they are on a general scale or in specific subjects.
Remember that many people stop actively learning once they have a degree. In other words, most people attribute their intelligence to this degree and feel there isn’t a need to learn more, even if that degree was obtained years ago.
Industries evolve and change every day, and what we learned as recently as two or three years ago may not be relevant today.
6. Do Accept Mistakes
Mistakes are part of the process and are needed for us to grow. Again, Dweck’s conclusions stemmed from student’s reactions to problems and mistakes that they made.
It’s an important criterion and ingredient to determine our mindsets.
As such, if we want to develop a true growth mindset, we want to embrace our mistakes.
7. Make Mistakes Part of the Learning Model
Not only should we accept mistakes, we should also incorporate them into the learning process. You don’t need to be in a school atmosphere to apply this. Some prime examples are at work.
Say, for instance, that the company brought in a new machine or is introducing new concepts or roles that you’re struggling with. Instead of grumbling about it, take a step back and highlight the specific problems that you have.
From there, go and look for help. This can be within your own office, or you can turn to the Internet.
A Growth Mindset Is Within Your Reach
Now that you have a more refined grasp on the topic, I hope that you understand why it’s so important to ensure you have the right mindset.
There is more to a growth mindset than understanding a simple explanation or approaching failures and mistakes differently.
While those are important, you can see already there is more at work here. A growth mindset is well within anyone’s grasp should they devote more time to practicing it the right way.
More About the Growth Mindset
Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com