Applying growth mindset theory to our lives can be a challenge, but in my opinion, there is no area that it is required more than in young people as they navigate their early experiences of learning and development of their work ethic and self-esteem. Many people with unknown potential limit their education and opportunities due to their mindset being closed. Closed mindsets believe we are only as good as our results. We are capable, only of things “within” our predetermined or established level of competence. In other words, if I’ve been told I’m intelligent, if I’ve been told I’m leadership material and these opinions are the overriding “why” that means I’ll try things, then I am placing a higher level of importance on the views of others about my capabilities rather than my own self-belief, awareness and joy of self-discovery. This is why developing a growth mindset is so important.
Here are three points that are essential for you to introduce more of a growth mindset into your life and those around you.
1. Encourage excellence rather than perfection.
Put simply, excellence is a personal point of view that only the “doer” knows if there are living up to. Perfection, on the other hand, relies on the opinions of others. As an example, if you go to the gym, how do you achieve an excellent workout? Only you know if you gave 100%. Giving your 100% does not eliminate the possibility that some people can lift more than you. But you’ll see while you are engaging in your workout if you’ve given 100%. Your effort isn’t measured by your results; in the short term, there may not even be visible results? If however, you are chasing perfection, there are plenty of us that might decide just never to start. Why? Because the perfect mindset buys into the opinions of others about how we should look, how much we should be able to lift etc.
2. Praise Effort
Those that embrace the effort required to achieve something are less likely to give up. We can encourage this mindset by recognising effort at least as much (or preferably more) than results. If we do this, we encourage people to keep trying, and as we know, those that keep trying often surprise themselves and achieve things that bring them great satisfaction. The satisfaction that it is not tied to the expectations and opinions of others, instead we are satisfied with ourselves because of our efforts.
As an example, an entry-level student learning the guitar might take great delight in being able to play several cords, cords that more advanced players might consider “basic” or even “boring until compiled into a song. The guitar student is enjoying the challenge and process of learning as much as the results. This mindset means they are more likely to continue learning even if it gets tough.
3. Encourage Reflection / learning
The moment we decide that a mistake is an opportunity to learn, it no longer becomes a mistake, rather a valuable lesson. In a world where things are so fast, it can be hard to make time for reflection and learning, but these things are essential skills for us to develop. We’ve all heard the saying “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result”. Making time to reflect and learn from our perceived mistakes is a critical step in developing and improving our “conscious competence”.
Look out for my next blog that will expand more on developing conscious competence. Until then, I trust you’ll take some time to apply the 3 principles I’ve shared.
Check out this LINK for a great TED talk by Dr Carol Dweck.