A Growth Mindset
Is it just me that finds something that is self evident very difficult to explain? Is it just me that is astonished when others don’t see something that I consider to be obvious? One of the reasons I ask is I shared a speaking opportunity with a colleague who has a background in sports and performance psychology recently. We were speaking to a group of would be ‘Scale Up’ entrepreneurs.
Scale up leader
The topic my colleague was speaking about was ‘The Growth Mindset’, a concept popularised by the Stamford professor Carol Dweck in her 2006 book ‘Mindset’. The argument was that a growth mindset is a prerequisite for a Scale Up leader. A growth mindset was roughly defined as the intention and commitment to grow. Conversely a fixed mindset was defined as the assumption that we have what we were born with and we are incapable of getting any better or of developing any further and so believe that success is based on innate ability; people of this persuasion are said to have a “fixed” theory of intelligence (fixed mindset).
If you haven’t read the book I would strongly suggest that you do. Incidentally the book is subtitled “The New Psychology of Success.” And my copy recommends it be read by parents as well as leaders.
As I was reflecting on the conversation, I found the little voice inside my head was saying ‘well of course’ repeatedly.
The growth mindset is the intention and commitment to grow. ‘well of course’.
The growth mindset is about the willingness to take on the unknown ‘well of course’;
A growth mindset is a willingness to turn an ordeal into an adventure and to step into the discomfort zone ‘well of course’.
Scaling a business
If you are going to scale a business, by definition you are going to have to go places you have never been before. Is it any wonder that a growth mindset is considered a ‘must have’?
I suppose that because I am so deeply entrenched in the world of self development and growth and have been for so long these aspects of the growth mindset are indeed self evident and I find it difficult to imagine that anyone would or could think otherwise. But I know they do.
I took down my aged copy of the book and skimmed through it again. I remember that feeling of discovering a universal truth when I read it the first time and realised that at some level I must have had a fixed mindset, once upon a time.
Retrain the brain
Which goes to illustrate a couple of things. One is how much things can change and the other is how relatively easy it is to retrain the brain and develop better habits including better thinking habits. Now, it is inconceivable to me that I would ever think that because I can’t do something today I couldn’t ever learn to do it in the future, but I know I did, once before.
The growth mindset would say that we are all capable of learning and of growing. I think everyone has that within them and I believe that one of the greatest gifts in life, is learning to perform at a higher level than we have ever done before. As a professional business coach that is something I get to witness on a daily basis.
Age is no barrier
One of the greatest things is that we can grow at any age. In fact, there is lots of evidence to suggest that age is no barrier. The great and prolific business author Peter Drucker wrote one third of his total output before the age of 65 meaning that the remaining two thirds of his output occurred after the age of 65. We can keep on growing well into old age- with the right mindset.
We would all do well to develop and maintain a growth mindset. It was Henry Ford who said “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. “Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
But to my mind the most wholeheartedly hopeful comment on the subject was made by Carol Dweck herself when she gave the following recommendation “If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence”.
In these days of skyrocketing rates of depression, anxiety and even suicide among our young folk, arguably fuelled by an atmosphere of entitlement, instant gratification and fanned by social media the development of a growth mindset seems more important than ever.