The Growth Mindset

Category: People

This article was originally posted on LinkedIn by Allen Yesilevich, VP Marketing & Growth @ MC².  Allen leads our marketing, digital and business development strategy efforts. He also writes for Forbes and is a member of the Forbes Communication Council. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter to learn more about his thoughts on experiential and growth strategies.

It has been over eleven years since Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., wrote her bestselling book Mindset: The Psychology of Success. The 320 pages of Dr. Dweck’s work are a comprehensive, well-researched guide to success founded on the concept of what the good doctor describes as two mindsets: the “fixed mindset” and the “growth mindset”.

Her premise is as follows:

If a person has a Fixed Mindset:

-They believe intelligence is static.

-They are less willing to change.

-They give up easily.

-They don’t see the value of putting in the effort to succeed.

-They ignore useful feedback.

-They feel threatened by the success of others.

If a person has a Growth Mindset:

-They believe that intelligence can be developed.

-They have a desire to learn.

-They embrace change.

-They persist in the face of obstacles.

-They are willing to work.

-They learn from criticism and mistakes.

-They find lessons and inspiration from other people’s successes.

Dweck’s book is an excellent piece of work. If you would like to see a simplified explanation of her concepts, I suggest watching this video by John Spencer.

Creating the Growth Mindset

I believe it’s safe to say that most of us would love to have a growth mindset, and the good news is, you can. Of course, like any skill, it takes some effort. Let’s explore the behaviors of a person with a growth mindset, according to Dweck.

Desire to Learn

I recently overheard a college graduate say he was happy to be done with learning so he could now have a chance to show the world what he could do. I, however, warned him that if he wanted to be successful in his chosen field, he would have to have a lifelong relationship with learning. For a (hopefully) brief moment, this young man had a fixed mindset. That’s okay. We all need a break from the rigors of learning sometimes, but success isn’t created with a closed mind, so the briefer the learning respite, the better.

Willing to Embrace Change

Dweck says that embracing change is a critical feature of a person with a growth mindset. I have a little bit of a problem with this, and it just might be in the choice of the words. My experience has been that not all change is good, so why would I embrace it? Perhaps what we should do is have an open mind, a willingness to consider and study change and then embrace it if it makes sense. Also, some changes are beyond our control, and in those cases, we need to accept and adapt even if we don’t necessarily embrace that change. Heraclitus of Ephesus, a Greek philosopher who lived around 500 BCE, said, “Change is the only constant in life.” We are going to see a lot of changes in our lifetime; therefore, how we react to change will determine our level of success.

Persist in the Face of Obstacles

If you’re not willing to face and traverse obstacles that confront you, there is little chance that you’ll be successful. Often, the inability of a person to confront life’s deterrents or to risk doing something new is caused by fear of failure.

The truth is, we have been failing our whole lives. It’s the way we learn. We try. We fail. We adjust and try again. We fail again, and we adjust and try again until we succeed. We’re all experts at failing, and each time we do, we learn something that helps drive us to succeed. Here’s an example of persistence we have all experienced. Picture a pre-toddler’s first attempts at walking. They fall, get up, and try again and again until they learn to walk. We all did it.

Willing to Work

My take on this precept is that if you’re not emotionally invested in the outcome of a task, you’re not likely to give it your full effort. A person with a growth mindset may not like a chore, but they will find something connected to that task about which they can be passionate. Perhaps the money you’ll make doing the chore will help feed your loved ones, or completing the chore will get you to the next step toward your goal. There’s always something you can focus on to make any job worth the effort. It’s what people with a growth mindset do.

Learn from Criticism and Mistakes

No one likes to be criticized, but a person with a growth mindset will listen to the criticism, analyze it, and decide if they are willing to accept it as a learning experience. Not all criticisms are truthful or helpful, but all are worthy of a bit of self-analysis.

Find Lessons and Inspiration from Other People’s Successes

After I recently reviewed Dweck’s materials, I immediately realized that the traits of successful people that I outlined in a Forbes article align well with her growth mindset research. Dweck’s work is scientific and cerebral, and the success traits I describe are based more on real-life observations of successful people and are action-oriented.

I believe a growth mindset can be established in both individuals and organizations. In either case, it helps to follow a list of actionable behaviors that light the path to a growth mindset.

They are:









Connect with Allen Yesilevich on LinkedIn and Twitter and stay ahead with the latest thoughts on experiential and growth strategies.


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