How to Foster a Growth Mindset in Times of Change and Uncertainty
The world is rapidly changing in the face of COVID-19, with many businesses on temporary pause and record numbers of people working from home. As we all adjust to this new reality, the idea of adopting a growth mindset matters more than ever. As you and your workforce prepare for our new constantly evolving landscape, fostering a growth mindset and adaptability to change is an important part of weathering today’s situation.
What is a growth mindset?
First, what is a growth mindset and why does it matter? In recent years, the field of mindset has changed the way organizations operate. Through her research at Stanford, Carol Dweck has observed that the mindset you choose can have a profound impact on how you live your life.
According to Dweck, individuals can be placed on a continuum based on their mindsets. Those who believe their abilities are based on innate talents — and therefore can’t change much — have a “fixed” mindset. Those who believe that success is based on effort are said to have a “growth” mindset. They believe that with hard work, you can ALWAYS improve. One definition I like is that a fixed mindset focuses on proving how smart you are; a growth mindset is focused on improving.
Another important litmus test for a growth versus fixed mindset is a person’s reaction to failure. People with a growth mindset see failure as a learning opportunity and can bounce back relatively quickly, while those with a fixed mindset see failure as a reflection of their ability and therefore do everything they can to avoid it. That’s why people with fixed mindsets like to play it safe. As a result, they’re not often game-changers in our world.
These two mindsets impact all aspects of our lives, including work, parenting, and even personal fulfillment. And it’s not just limited to individuals. Organizations have mindsets as well. They have (and promote) a growth or fixed mindset depending on the behaviors they penalize and reward. Are failed initiatives punished or celebrated? Dweck’s research suggests that individuals in fixed mindset organizations regularly keep secrets, cut corners, and cheat to try to get ahead. She found that employees in growth mindset organizations are 47% likelier to see their colleagues as trustworthy, 34% likelier to feel a strong sense of ownership and commitment to the company, 65% likelier to say that the company supports risk-taking, and 49% likelier to say that the company fosters innovation.
The good news is that a growth mindset can be cultivated. Through my work, I’ve observed six key roadblocks that prevent people from adopting a growth mindset. In this blog post, I’ll outline three of the most common roadblocks and offer a few strategies to address them. Prepare yourself and your employees to be adaptable to change and uncertainty with my Udemy course, Growth Mindset: The Key to Greater Confidence and Impact. The course includes an in-depth look at all six roadblocks, along with proven techniques for overcoming them.
Last Updated March 2020
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Overcome 3 roadblocks to unlock your growth mindset
1. Lack of confidence
At some point in our lives and careers, most of us experience a lack of confidence. This is often referred to as “imposter syndrome” — the sense that we feel like frauds or that our success has been a fluke. When we lack confidence, we’re much less likely to leave our comfort zone and take risks.
I recommend several tactics for those lacking confidence. First, listen to the script in your head. What is that script telling us? Is it holding us back? How might we rewrite it? For example, we can turn questions into statements. Rather than asking: “Am I good enough? Do I deserve to be here?” We can say, “I am good enough. I deserve to be here.” If you don’t feel you’re very good at something, try adding the word “yet.” This one word reminds us that we are continually learning and improving. So rather than saying, “I’m not a good presenter,” we can encourage a growth mindset by changing that statement to “I’m not a good presenter… yet.”
Finally, keep a list of things you do well. When someone provides positive feedback, capture it. Put it where you can review it frequently — on your bathroom mirror or under your car visor. These regular sources of affirmation go a long way toward supercharging your confidence.
2. Fear of failure
The way a person responds to failure is a good indication of whether they are embracing a growth or fixed mindset. Fearing failure or avoiding it at all costs is an indicator of a fixed mindset. When we worry about failing, we’re unlikely to suggest ideas or take risks because we don’t want to let ourselves or others down.
Overcoming this is hard. None of us like to fail. I personally hate it. But I’ve also learned that if I want to grow, I WILL at times fail… and trust me, I have. But once we recognize that growth means that we will occasionally fail, I can reward myself for trying. Also, try reframing “failure” as a reward for stepping up to something new. Instead of “failing,” you’ve actually just grown! As long as you’ve learned from it, you haven’t really failed. Thomas Edison famously said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Creating a little ritual to celebrate moments of failure is another effective strategy. In improv, actors take a “failure bow” when something doesn’t work. This is an acknowledgment that they tried something, but hey, it didn’t work. Time to move on. I can’t tell you how many failure bows I’ve taken in the privacy of my bedroom.
A third roadblock is inertia. This is when you have big plans and know what you want to do, but can’t seem to make it happen. Perhaps you want to learn a new skill but never get around to signing up for a class. Or you have a long to-do list, but never check anything off.
One of the best ways to overcome inertia is by slicing a big goal into tiny pieces and completing a small task each day. Completing one small task is a huge motivator to tackling the next. Rewards can be very motivational as well. For example, once you complete three tasks, reward yourself with a cappuccino from your favorite coffee shop. Or play a game with yourself. Set a timer for 30 minutes and see how many tasks you can check off.
For this strategy — as well as the others I’ve mentioned — an accountability partner can be very effective. Having someone who checks in with you on a regular basis is very motivating. I never want to let my accountability partner down, and I often cram last-minute to ensure I meet my commitment.
Anyone who’s accomplished something great has likely applied a growth mindset. Whether you want to grow your career, pursue a new adventure, or try new things, your mindset will make the difference. Try saying yes to one new thing this week, and see what opens up to you.
Be sure to join me in my course, Growth Mindset: The Key to Greater Confidence and Impact, for more concrete tips and strategies for developing a growth mindset for yourself, and also for your organization. As we face these uncertainties in our personal and professional lives, a growth mindset is one way of maintaining a positive outlook and making the most of whatever situation we find ourselves in.
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