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July 5, 2022

Do You Go After What You Really Want? Your Mindset May Be Holding You Back

Written by Dr. Gia Marson

Adopt a Growth Mindset and Make Positive Change

Our brain is an amazing warehouse of ideas, emotions, information, dreams, reasonings, and calculations. By some accounts, we generate at least 60,000 thoughts per day. That’s a lot of thinking!

It’s no wonder, then, that a great deal of research has gone into how we think and see ourselves and the world. More than 15 years after the terms “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset” were coined, our outlook continues to be a major subject of study.

Evidence shows that having a fixed mindset can keep us stuck, set us up for failure, and diminish the desire to try new things. Conversely, a growth mindset can lead to a flourishing, satisfying life.

“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.”
—Carol Dweck

What is a growth mindset?

In a nutshell, having a growth mindset means believing that skills and abilities can be developed through practice and hard work.

This differs from a fixed mindset, which is the belief that we are limited by our immovable qualities, whether they be talent, intelligence, personality, or other characteristics.

Why does mindset matter?

Our mindset matters because success in work, relationships, friendships, sports, the arts, hobbies, parenting, and nearly any other endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our abilities. After all, if you don’t think you can learn more and perform better, why would you bother to try?

Those with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence and skills can’t be improved, regardless of the persistence, time, or effort it takes to develop certain skills. If you become defensive or give up easily and stay in your comfort zone, you may have a fixed mindset.

If you have this mindset, you may have limiting thoughts and beliefs, such as, “There’s no way I can do that—I’m not smart enough.” You may believe failure is the result of not having inherent ability or intelligence. You may avoid situations that challenge you, for fear of doing it wrong.

Another self-limiting aspect of the fixed mindset is perfectionism. This surprises some people, who may equate being perfect with growth. But the truth is, perfectionism may arise in areas where you are most insecure.

On one end of the perfectionist fixed mindset spectrum is an exhausting effort to ensure that something in your life is perfect. It comes with thoughts such as, “Being the perfect employee means never making a mistake.” This is a toxic quality because you’re not embracing the natural learning curve that comes with trying something new, taking on a challenging role, or the chance to learn from what went wrong. Plus, you’re disregarding the reality that our universal human condition makes us all imperfect.

On the other end of the spectrum of perfectionism is fear of failure, which may keep you from trying anything new. This sounds like, “I can’t agree to the next stage of our relationship—what if I mess it up?”

“There is no failure. Only feedback.”
—Robert Allen

With a growth mindset, you have more freedom and more willingness. That’s because you believe in developing your talents, are passionate about learning, aren’t afraid to take risks, and are confident you can bounce back or grow from setbacks.

Which mindset do you have?

Each mindset comes with a set of common characteristics.

Traits of a Fixed Mindset

  • Avoids problems
  • Gives up easily
  • Circumvents challenges
  • Fears making errors or failing
  • Gets defensive in the face of negative feedback
  • Envies the successes of others
  • Requires regular boosts in self-esteem
  • Avoids new experiences
  • Considers results a “fixed” part of their identity

A fixed mindset isn’t all negative. In fact, everyone has some elements of a fixed mindset.

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”
—Albert Einstein

Traits of a Growth Mindset

  • Processes mistakes with a desire to correct them
  • Develops talents and abilities through practice and effort
  • Perseveres in the face of failures
  • Embraces challenges
  • Accepts constructive criticism
  • Finds inspiration in others, especially those who are more successful
  • Surrounds themselves with others who inspire them to grow
  • Seeks opportunities to learn new skills
  • Enjoys collaboration

With a growth mindset, you free yourself up to be more open, imaginative, and innovative.

Strategies to Develop a Growth Mindset

No matter what has been true in your past, anyone can embrace a growth mindset. Many educators, athletes, entrepreneurs, and others have shifted their outlook with positive results. Implementing growth-oriented activities can help you embrace this perspective:

  • Set new learning goals
  • Catch yourself in negative self-talk such as, “I’ll never be good at this,” and say instead, “With practice, I’ll get better.”
  • Accept challenging, but not too difficult, tasks
  • Review setbacks and notice points of resilience
  • Stay flexible
  • Learn from your mistakes

“Dreams don’t work unless you do.”
—John C. Maxwell

Putting yourself in the growth zone won’t happen overnight. But with persistence, consistency, and an open curiosity, you can adopt a growth mindset.

You may experience uncomfortable feelings as you try new things or handle challenges. That is to be expected. This is the process of learning. Over time, you’ll begin to realize that you can handle tough situations and come out smarter, more resilient, and more accomplished.

When you can focus more on improving, not on perfecting, your skills, you’ll know you’ve arrived in the growth zone. I hope you’ll give it a try today!

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