You just received an envelope you have been waiting for a while. This envelope contains the results of something really important for you. You are a little afraid to open it, but you take courage and do it. What is inside is not good news, the results aren’t as good as you were expecting.
You are disappointed, but after that first shock… what do you think?
That reflection after you face a challenge, whether the result is a success or a failure, is more important than you think.
Let’s go back to our bad results envelope. You could have thought that even when the final results were bad, you have had fun during the learning process and that if you would have to face that challenge again, you will have the skills to do it better. On the other hand, you could have thought that the challenge was to much for you, that it was not “your thing”, and that anyway there are other things you’re good at.
This is what the Stanford University Professor Carol Dweck calls mindset. On her research, she has found that there are two types of mindset: fixed mindset and growth mindset.
Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset
So, how do we know if we have a fixed or a growth mindset?
People with fixed mindset thinks that talents are something we born with and that they cannot be developed through life. You can learn new skills and you can learn to do things, but you will never be more intelligent or increase your talent.
Contrarily, a person with growth mindset thinks that hard work, strategies and being around of bright people can make their talents develop. This people values experiences and processes more than final results.
Now, think again on those disappointing results in the envelope. What do they mean to you? If you think that they somehow define you, you probably are a fixed mindset person. But if you think that they are just a little part of a bigger process, you must be a growth mindset person.
Education system: creation of mindset
Our current education system is clearly focused on results. When you are a student, you take a test or accomplish a task, and after a while you get a grade in return. If you get an A, then you must be good, if not… well, maybe you’re not that good.
Dweck research has focussed in schools for years. Through experiments, she has shown that this results-centered system is not working for many children. When only results are praised a fixed mindset arises and children avoid new challenges, but when effort is praised children enjoy new challenges.
Learning is a process and when we only focus on results we forget this. “Praise effort” is what Dweck recommends and it means value the process. The process of reasoning, of thinking creatively, this is what should be praised.
Do companies have mindset?
Companies can be compared to living organisms in many ways. Organisms have cells, companies have people. Organisms have organs, companies have departments.
Because they are formed by people, they develop personalities and of course mindsets.
If leaders praise final results and do not take a moment to reflect on the process that led to those results, they will be promoting a fixed mindset inside the company.
If you are thinking: “Yeah, right final results are not important… go tell that to my boss”, you have a point.
Putting a lot of effort into strategies that don’t work, could make companies lose money. But lacking of strategies because employees are afraid to fail, could make them lose money too.
Therefore, praise the effort is not just about saying that failing is OK, but making people less afraid to fail. According to Dweck, examples of how leaders can praise effort in a company are: seeking help from others, trying new strategies, using setbacks as lessons for improving performance on a task.
Dweck research hasn’t shown yet that companies get better results, regarding profits and other indicators, by promoting a growth mindset. Nevertheless, it shows that in companies that have a growth mindset, employees are happier, more innovative and less afraid to take risks.
Your turn: how to have a growth mindset?
As we’ve seen, Dweck research suggests that having a growth mindset is more beneficial than having a fixed mindset.
People with fixed mindset stops learning and improving when they think they reach their top potential. But, what can we do if we have fixed mindset? Is this some kind of life-long sentence? Of course not! (Even if that is what your fixed mindset is making you think).
Let’s see a four steps method for changing your mindset as it is presented on Dweck’s web:
1.- Your fixed mindset has a voice
Have you ever heard this voice in your head giving you advices about what to do and what not to do?
This voice might be right sometimes, as when it says “don’t go with that stranger”. It wants the best for us. The problem is that sometimes this voice is so worried for keeping us safe, that it overreacts to challenges and keeps us away from risks that are good for us.
So when you face a challenge, learn to identify the fixed mindset voice. It might say something like:
- Are you sure you can? You have never done something similar.
- I told you that you were going to make mistakes and now everybody knows it.
- If you asked for help, you are going to show them that you can’t do it.
2.- Learn that you have an option
Fixed mindset voice doesn’t know grays, things are either white or either black: you can do it or cannot; you are good at it or you aren’t.
So listen to the voice and think about what is not telling you:
- If it says: “you have never done something like that”; think about what you have done that might help you face the challenge.
- If it says: “look at all those mistakes you’re making”, think about what you have learned from those mistakes.
- If it says: “don’t ask for help, you’re only showing that you can’t”, think about what you can learn from others and how this can help you achieve your goals.
3.- Talk back to the voice
Fixed mindset voice has it easy. It says things and there’s nobody to answer its claims.
After step 2, you will have a lot of arguments to answer the voice. So don’t let it be just a reflection moment, answer the voice back and have a conversation with it. It surely will have another obstacle or fear to show you, but now you have enough arguments to silence the voice.
4.- Act according to a growth mindset
This mental debate with your fixed mindset voice won’t be worth it if you don’t take action. Now it’s the time for facing those challenges.
So go there and face your challenges thinking what you’ll learn from them and put the whole you in the process. Learn and reflect on the results even if you achieved your goal or not.
If you want to see a bit of Professor Carol Dweck research, here is her TED Talk:
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.