Ever since Carol Dweck first published her book on Growth Mindset in 2006, the focus on this topic has continued to grow. Today, it has become a trait that most employers are looking for in prospective applicants, not to mention what they are looking for in their existing employees. So, not understanding what it is and how to incorporate it into your behavior is a significant career misstep.
What is Growth Mindset and Why Does it Matter?
In a recent New York Times article, Erik Vance described “resiliency” as the single most important factor in raising successful children. That’s because the ability to assess a problem, understand how it’s preventing you from reaching your goal and return to the table even after a failure, has been proven, time and again, to be one of the most common skills among adults who describe themselves as “successful” and “happy”.
In a lot of ways, a growth mindset – shorthand for a group of soft skills that include learning from failures, creative problem solving, empathy, and the ability to take ownership, etc. – is synonymous. It’s the learned ability to “thrive when presented with challenges”. Not just to overcome adversity but to make it a core guidepost in your learning process.
It’s also one of the most important but least talked about career skills for top employers; particularly in the technology space and amongst those looking to accomplish technology-focused objectives. That’s because, with so many new technically trained workers entering the sector, the success of these organizations increasingly boils down to their ability to “fail fast and iterate quickly”, rather than implement one particular technical solution over another. Hiring and promotion in the space, especially for those in the upper ranks of management, therefore, are increasingly influenced by the ability to understand and lead large teams of technical experts to overcome big challenges at scale.
The Most Important Tenets of a Growth Mindset
In its basic form, Growth Mindset is centered on the belief that intelligence and learning can be developed and improved at virtually any time and with any subject. If someone has a growth mindset, they have a positive attitude towards learning and their ability to progress and achieve. Those who possess a growth mindset are said to rise to challenges and learn from their mistakes, rather than feel distressed and defeated if they are unable to do or understand something.
To better grasp the aspects of a Growth Mindset, it can be helpful to consider the opposite, which is referred to as a Fixed Mindset. Those with a Fixed Mindset believe intelligence and abilities are static. As such, an attempt to learn a new skill is largely a waste of time. Not just because the desired skill won’t be acquired, but because the failures that accompany the efforts will expose one’s weaknesses and incompetence.
What Does Growth Mindset Look Like in Real World Scenarios?
The reason employers are increasingly looking for those with a Growth Mindset is because these individuals are consistently moving forward and upward, and they bring their employer along for the ride. Compare the employee who is excited to take on a new assignment or responsibility to the employee who prefers to stay within their comfort zone. Compare the employee who fails fast and identifies and implements solutions to the employee who maintains the status quo over an extended period of time.
In the real world, those with a Growth Mindset are learning, growing, testing their limits, trying new things, and exploring new solutions. On this amazing journey, failures and mistakes are simply part of the learning process, propelling you closer to the finish line.
In the real world, those with a Growth Mindset are those who:
- Volunteer for new assignments.
- Launch a new pilot program.
- Identify problems and propose solutions without being asked.
- Inspire and lead those around them to similar behavior.
- Don’t get discouraged when failure occurs.
Contemplating all the elements of a Growth Mindset, and the importance of incorporating one into your behavior, it can sometimes be difficult to know how to start the journey. Below are six steps to help kick-start the process of incorporating a Growth Mindset into your daily routine.
- Always Keep Learning – Learning new things should be a lifelong pursuit. Big or small, there are always new and relevant skills to acquire that can propel your career or simply boost your capabilities and confidence. This thirst for always increasing your knowledge is a hallmark of someone with a Growth Mindset.
- Do Difficult Things – Both our body and our brain respond to exercise. The more difficult the exercise is, the more dramatic the results. Just as an athlete would get nowhere by doing three pushups a day, so our brain needs meaningful exercise as well. Push your boundaries and push yourself. You’ll be amazed at the things you can do.
- Get Outside Your Comfort Zone – Very little growth occurs when we are in our comfort zone. You may be working hard but doing a task that you’ve long since mastered doesn’t promote meaningful growth. One of the most painful, yet powerful, lessons I learned in my career occurred after I had unwittingly stayed in a specific role too long. I had become comfortable in my day-to-day routine, and I stopped growing.
- Allow Yourself to Fail – Making mistakes does not mean you’re a failure. Making mistakes means you’re on the right track. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t see failure as a bad thing. After a failure, pick yourself up quickly and push forward. The goal line gets closer and closer as you learn and grow from your failures and mistakes.
- Stop Worrying About What Other People Think – With few exceptions, worrying about what other people think can significantly hinder growth. Prioritize learning over seeking approval. Set your growth and learning goals and then get to it. You’ll be amazed at how fast you can learn when you stay focused on your goals and weed out the distractions coming from the sidelines.
- Believe in Yourself – A lot of people struggle with this step, and they fall into the traps of dwelling on past mistakes or being skeptical of your true abilities. All too often we are victims of self-inflicted hinderances. We tell ourselves things like, “I could never write a book,” “I’m no good at math,” “I’m not creative,” “I’m not a leader,” I’m no good at technology,” and on-and-on it goes. Don’t fall into this trap. Believing in yourself is the first and required step to do incredible things.
Using Growth Mindset to Differentiate Yourself
As you begin and maintain the Growth Mindset journey, you will inevitably differentiate yourself from others and provide a positive example for others to follow. The truth is that, as a human being, you are capable of tremendous growth and accomplishments. Some of that growth may require a lot of hard work and for you to get way outside of your comfort zone, but don’t believe for a second that you are not capable of doing amazing things and growing your skills in amazing ways.
If you’d like to find out more about how to develop a growth mindset, or enhance other important career-oriented human skills, please do get in touch. At SkillUp Online, we know the difference that strong soft skills can make to a professional’s career, and you can benefit from that too.
Coach & Director Human Skills