Updated: Sep 25, 2020
Learn how a growth mindset, not a fixed mindset, can help you succeed. Having a growth mindset can help you to learn from feedback and improve.
Have you ever thought, “I’m just not good at this!”? If so, you’ve experienced what Stanford professor Carol Dweck calls a “Fixed Mindset,” A belief that your talent and intelligence are innate and can’t improve.
Until recently, most people believed that you are born with a fixed level of intelligence; that some people were born with high levels of intelligence and others were born with low intelligence and that no matter how hard you worked, you could do very little to change your brainpower. However, scientific research has found that this belief is not true and that your brain is just like other muscles in your body and it can change and grow through exercise.
Just like exercising can increase the strength of your muscles, your brain grows and becomes stronger when you use it. And just like your muscles, your brain grows the most from working on challenging tasks.
Here is a brain that is less developed, like the brain of a young child. Notice how there is little activity and few active connections in the brain.
Now here is a more developed brain. Notice how different the brain looks. You can see many new connections have formed and the structure of the brain has physically changed as it has become stronger. What we can see is that our brains grow as a result of the accumulated effort in working hard to learn and try new things. When you learn new things, the tiny connections in your brain multiply and get stronger. The more that you challenge your mind the more your brain cells grow. We see how the connections within the brain have grown. It is important to remember that we learn the most when we fail at something and then work hard at identifying why we failed and learning from that experience.
Does this mean that when someone fails we quickly point out that they failed so they can learn from that experience? Not necessarily. Consider a young child learning to walk. Although falling down could be seen as failing to walk, we celebrate each attempt and applaud the baby for its effort in learning this important skill. Each time the child progresses in learning she develops new skills and it forges stronger connections in the brain that help the mind to grow stronger. Some children learn faster than others, but eventually children that continue to keep trying will learn to walk.
Just like a child learning to walk, you can change your intelligence! As long as you do not give up and as long as you continue to work hard you can learn and develop new skills and abilities and you can overcome challenges in your life.
Your brain can and does grow and the more you use it, the stronger it gets. The best way to grow your brain isn’t to do things that are easy, or comfortable, but to do things that are hard. When you have to struggle and exert more effort, your brain grows stronger. In fact, research shows that your brain grows the most, not when you get a question right, but when you get a question wrong and when you put forth the effort to study and learn why you missed the question. The key to growth is practice, but many people miss out on growing their intelligence because they believe they can’t do it, it’s just too hard, or they are afraid of failing. Change does require work and sometimes it is painful, but this work is necessary for growth.
This perspective is called a “growth mindset” and means that you believe that your abilities in life are not fixed based on the circumstances you were born into, but believing that if you work hard and continue to try new things and learn from mistakes that you can grow and change your condition in life.
While all individuals are going to have a mix of fixed and growth mindsets in different activities at different times, you can help yourself succeed by favoring a growth mindset.
So how does this apply to business?
People with a growth mindset aren’t threatened by criticism or feedback. They welcome it as fuel for improvement. They don’t waste time trying to seem capable, they use failure as an opportunity to learn and improve. They’re more resilient in the face of setbacks. Even employees that begin with relatively less skill can, with a growth mindset, outperform their peers who have a fixed mindset.
In Fortune 100 companies that display a fixed-mindset, employees perceive less integrity and collaboration at work; they also express less trust and commitment to their employers. Since employee retention saves big money, the growth mindset has big implications for business, on the micro and macro level.
Develop the growth mindset in your personal work and in your organization by going to internationalhub.org. Here you will learn specific ways to develop a growth mindset and how to apply that mindset to be a better global citizen and leader.