In recent years, “the growth mindset” has exploded onto the self-improvement scene with such force that it seems like almost everyone is talking about. It’s a straightforward, yet powerful idea: growth-minded people see their skills and abilities as dynamic, while fixed-minded people see it as static. The former embraces challenge and adversity as a means of progress, and the latter shuns risk and difficulty for fear of facing the possibility of their own inadequacy.
This mindset theory itself, however, tends to be marred by popular misunderstandings of what growth is and is not. Consequently, despite the immense popularity of the growth mindset theory, it’s also a frequent victim of misconception, thus hurting its efficacy in the long run. Without gaining a concrete, proper grasp of what the growth mindset really is and isn’t, attempting to implement it at work and in life can be extremely costly towards progress.
P.S. Take charge of your own growth at work and in life; sign up for SSA Academy’s WSQ course on developing personal effectiveness today!
We all know people with a type-A personality. Disciplined, over-achieving, highly competitive, and always aiming high. Sometimes it just seems like they have a Midas’ touch; everything they apply themselves to turns to gold, and there’s not much it seems they can’t do.
It’s easy to mistake this for the growth mindset. the assumption is that once you start practicing the growth mindset in one particular aspect of your life, it’ll apply to every other aspect of your life as well.
This just isn’t the case, though. Each of us is an amalgamation of growth and fixed mindsets; we react in different ways to different stimuli according to our skills, knowledge, and comfort levels. Just because you’ve trained yourself to have a growth mindset about public speaking, for example, doesn’t mean that you’ve now gotten rid of your fixed mindset towards learning a new language.
Growth, unfortunately, is no magic pill. It takes time and effort to practice it, and even more to sustain it. The growth mindset is the same. People often assume that it’s a permanent cure-all for being afraid to step out of your comfort zone and into the learning zone.
As convenient as that would be, though, it doesn’t work that way. The growth mindset isn’t self-sustaining, in that it requires you to take charge of your progress, so that you can think and act deliberately in ways that foster progress and learning.
The mind, however, can easily slip into stagnation and return to its bad, self-sabotaging learning habits, if left to its own devices. It takes conscious, consistent effort to keep training your mind to focus on constant growth.
So often, people equate the process of growth with winning at everything. In this view, by extension, the growth mindset is all about churning out stellar results all the time.
It’s a flawed assumption, not least because it’s not possible to grow without experiencing either periods of stagnation or repeated failure. Progress isn’t a linear process; it’s not a one way street. The road towards growth can be full of twists, turns, detours, road blocks, and even U-turns, and each of these hides different learning outcomes and insights that are beneficial towards growth.
It also misses out a critical component of the growth mindset: that challenges, setbacks, criticism and competition don’t suffocate growth, they feed it.
As inspirational and motivating it can be to keep focusing on effort, it leaves out a very practical and equally crucial consideration for growth: strategy. The growth mindset isn’t all about how to keep getting back up when you’re knocked down to the ground; it’s also about looking practically at what went wrong and how to fix it, which strategies to try next in pursuit of your goals and which strategies won’t work.
Effort alone will not be enough for progress if you keep approaching your goals the same way expecting different results.