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Published on February 27, 2020

7 Growth Mindset Dos And Don’ts

7 Growth Mindset Dos And Don’ts

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.

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All of these ideas are explored by Dweck through her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. [1]

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 [2]

Dweck expands:

“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.” [3]

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.

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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.[4]

    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.

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    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.

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    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

    Reference

    [1] Indie Bound: Mindset Paperback
    [2] The Atlantic: How Praise Became a Consolation Prize
    [3] The Atlantic: How Praise Became a Consolation Prize
    [4] MindsetKit: Do’s and don’ts of praise

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    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Published on November 23, 2020

    How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

    How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

    Your neighbors downstairs are playing loud music. Again. How do they not get tired of partying? And why do they choose songs with such a heavy downbeat that the glass in your cupboard is vibrating every two seconds? What can you do to get some peace that you deserve? What should you?

    Human mind tends to go in circles whenever faced with a problem without a clear solution. It becomes easy to forget the big picture and get lost in anger and self-pity, wasting our precious time, energy and enthusiasm.

    Would it not be nice if we always remembered to put things in perspective?

    Would it not be more efficient to face all kinds of problems, from tiny annoyances to life-changing emergencies, with a calm demeanor, sharp focus and fearless determination to promptly take the most efficient action possible?

    Alas, humans are not like that. All too often we let anxiety or greed get the best of us and make a rushed or shortsighted decision that we quickly come to regret. Other times, we spend weeks or months at an impasse, rehashing the exact same arguments, unable to accept the compromise required to move forward with any of the available options.

    Buddhists talk about getting lost in the “small self.” In this state of mind, we literally forget the big picture and focus on the small one. We start taking our daily problems too personally and, paradoxically, becomes less capable of solving them in an efficient manner. And this is the opposite of big picture thinking.

    Let me share with you a story related to big picture thinking…

    In 1812, the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia.[1] After a decisive Battle of Borodino, the capture of Moscow and therefore Napoleon’s victory in the war seemed inevitable.

    Unexpectedly, the Russian Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov made a highly controversial decision of retreating and allowing the French to capture Moscow. Much of the population had been evacuated taking supplies with them. The city itself was set on fire and large parts of it burned into the ground.

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    After waiting in vain for Russia to capitulate, Napoleon had to retreat in the middle of a bitterly cold winter. He won the battle but lost the war. The campaign ended in a disaster and the near destruction of the French army.

    What can we learn from this historical lesson?

    1. Focus on the Consequences

    Napoleon focused on the important part: capturing Moscow. Nobody could accuse him of thinking small. Yet he overlooked that the Russian army could still fight even after giving up the country’s most important city.

    So was Moscow not an important target after all?

    Success expert Brian Tracy has a litmus test: things are important to the extent that they have important consequences. Things are unimportant to the extent that they have no important consequences.[2]

    When faced with a choice, ask yourself, what would be the consequences of each option?

    • Want to spend an hour studying or watching the new series on Netflix? What would be the consequences of each option? Netflix can sometimes be a better choice, but it helps to put things in perspective.
    • Want to maintain your apartment by yourself or to pay a cleaning service? Would would be the consequences of each option?
    • Want to meet up for coffee with this acquaintance of yours or catch up on your work instead? What would be the consequences of each option?

    The choice can be different for different people. An aspiring filmmaker may have a legitimate reason for choosing Netflix. Personally, cleaning your own apartment can be relaxing and nourishing even if the economics of hiring a cleaner looks compelling because you are earning a high hourly rate.

    This is where you will need a basic idea of who you are — what are your goals, values and aspirations.

    2. Flip Defeat Into Victory

    Kutuzov managed to turn Russia’s defeat into a historic victory by recasting the problem in a wider context: losing Moscow need not mean losing the war.

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    Despite the symbolic meaning attached to the Kremlin, the churches, the priceless treasures that had been stored in the city for centuries, the outcome of the campaign was ultimately determined by the strength of the remaining armies.

    If you can adopt this result-oriented perspective, many of your personal defeats may be flipped into victories as well. Few events in a human life are absolutely good or absolutely bad, and it usually takes many years to recognize in retrospect, what role a particular encounter did play in your story.

    Therefore we have every reason to look for the good in the things that happen to us.

    This is a very practical attitude, far from baseless “positive thinking.” After all, if something unfortunate has happened to you and you find good sides in this circumstance, you will then be better positioned to take advantage of those good sides.

    Say your noisy neighbors are affecting your productivity. What if it is a blessing in disguise? How can you turn this defeat into a victory?

    • Perhaps you are too serious about life and could learn how to have more fun. Join your neighbors or go out for a walk instead of working;
    • Perhaps you only wanted to be productive while instead procrastinated on social media. Now that your procrastination has been interrupted, stop and acknowledge this much greater obstacle to your productivity;
    • Perhaps you are too sensitive to interference. Take this opportunity to practice ignoring the noise and doing your best anyway;
    • Perhaps you have a victim mentality and the feeling of unfairness drains you more than any actual nuisance your neighbors might have caused. Try accepting this lapse in your productivity the way you would accept bad weather.

    Get used to finding opportunities in your problems. This is the quintessential big picture thinking.

    3. Ask for Advice

    Both Napoleon and Kutuzov had trusted advisers to discuss their affairs with. In general, getting a different perspective — or several — can only help inform your understanding and lead to better decisions. Just ensure that the people giving you advice are competent in the particular area where experience is needed.

    Paying money for advice can also be a wise investment. Lawyers, tax accountants, medical doctors spend years learning how to assist people like yourself in living more successful, more fulfilling lives.

    A quick legal consultation can save you a fortune down the line or even keep you out of big trouble. A medical check-up can uncover potential issues and help keep you healthy and active for years to come.

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    Even big, complex dilemmas at your job or in your romantic relationship can be tackled more effectively by partnering up with a coach or a therapist or, of course, with the help of a wise friend.

    4. Beware of Biased Advice

    Many imperfect decisions occur in response to an imperfect piece of advice that you choose to act on. This advice often comes from a biased party.

    For example, we are often encouraged to buy something that we supposedly need:

    • Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using a special lotion.
    • Fortify your health by taking multivitamins.
    • Connect with your friends by sending them elaborate gifts.
    • Brighten your weekend by consuming a delicious pastry.
    • Become more productive by getting a faster computer.

    However, most purchases are unnecessary.

    Some, such as the sunscreen, do have legitimate benefits when used properly.[3] Others, such as multivitamins, only make a difference for a small group of people.[4]

    Advertisers of those benefits inevitably want to narrow your focus in order to overstate the importance of their product. They frequently present it as the only solution to your problem, whether real or imaginary.

    After all,

    • Skin can also be protected from the sun by wearing appropriate clothing.
    • Health can be better fortified by consuming a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
    • Spending time or talking on the phone with your friends is the foremost way of connecting with them, and it is virtually free.
    • Your weekend can be brightened by doing something that you love.
    • You can become more productive by focusing on the tasks that have the most important consequences. A faster computer can, in fact, decrease productivity by making it easier to multitask and by enabling your favorite distractions.

    There are other sources of imperfect advice. Politicians also frequently want us to focus on a particular “big picture,” to the exclusion of the alternatives.

    Even loving parents can be guilty of the same. They can advise their children to pick a career path that is safe and respectable, based on their “big picture” that in life one has to make a living. A child may disagree, however, based on another “big picture” that one’s life has to have meaning and fulfillment.

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    Bottom Line

    It is human nature to make rushed, emotional decisions based on incomplete information, then regret those decisions later on.

    You can protect yourself from poor judgment by striving to attain the big picture when careful consideration is called for.

    Focus on the consequences of your decision before considering how you feel about it.

    Play with the cards you’ve been dealt, but look for opportunities in each situation and you will find them.

    Ask knowledgeable mentors for advice, but beware of biased people who have an opinion, but do not necessarily have your best interest in mind.

    Yet remember, true big picture thinking comes from hard-won experience. Legendary military commanders Napoleon Bonaparte and Mikhail Kutuzov were both injured on the battlefield.

    Clear thinking comes from putting your big picture to the test of reality.

    More Tips on Thinking Clearly

    Featured photo credit: Haneen Krimly via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Wikipedia: French invasion of Russia
    [2] Brian Tracy: No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline
    [3] American Academy of Dermatology: Say Yes to Sun Protection
    [4] Harvard Medical School: Do multivitamins make you healthier?

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