Carol Dweck, senior psychologist at Stanford University in America first developed the principles of growth and fixed mindset based on seminal research she conducted with school children in the 1970’s.
The factors underpinning it are as relevant today as they were all those years ago. At the heart of growth mindset is the following premise:-
In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. People with a growth mindset have a belief, in essence, that they can learn to develop and improve their skills and competence in any areas they want.They take the learning from a situation, including setbacks, which involves their skills and competence, and use that learning together with a degree of resolve to continually improve their degree of competency and self-efficacy. This view or ” mindset” creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.
People with a fixed mindset, in effect, believe the exact opposite. In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They have a fundamental belief that their particular level of intelligence talent and skills are immoveable and they cannot improve their skills or competence in a particular area. They might say something like, ” I’ve never been any good at making presentations/ managing my time/ influencing people; it’s just how I am.” Their beliefs around their abilities in certain skills and competence are rigid and unmoving; because of this mindset they do not take the time to develop their skills or talent.
If we apply this to ourselves, the questions to ask ourselves are:-
- In what areas do I have a fixed mindset?
- What are the consequences to me and others close to me of having this mindset?
- What might happen if I choose to be more flexible in my beliefs about my abilities in this area?
- What do I choose to do about this?
The principles found in Dweck’s work can be applied to virtually every area of life, but are particularly relevant, I believe, for learning in both educative and organisational settings. It also has important links to building resilience in individuals and teams. We define resilience as “the ability of an individual to retain flexible cognitive, emotional and behavioural responses irrespective of prevailing circumstances” (adapted from Neenan & Drydens 2002). Adopting a more flexible approach in how we pro-actively support ourselves and others, particularly in times of adversity and challenge is at the heart or our approach within Optimal resilience. Generating awareness of where we are as individuals and as team members, have a fixed or rigid mindset, which is having unhelpful consequences for ourselves and others is the first step. Once we have real awareness, the next step is choosing to do something to improve this, to generate a more flexible and grow(ing) mindset, which is what I will be focussing on in the next post.
If you are interested to find out more a bout the work we do in connection with resilience, visit the emintell website. We will also be exploring how you can practically integrate a more flexible mindset at our next public resilience and wellbeing workshop in Nottingham on the 26th May, in collaboration with Natures Coaching. Until then, pay attention when a fixed mindset triggers for you, and begin to explore it as discussed above.