6 tested approaches to develop a growth mindset

‘Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right’

Henry Ford

Do you think it is possible to become more intelligent? Is it something you are born with or something you can develop? Do you have a defined level of talent or can you increase it?

Through the CoachMe Coaching Course I am currently taking part in, I have recently discovered some great work carried out by Carol Dweck of Stanford University on mindset. Dweck identifies 2 different kinds of mindsets, a ‘growth mindset’ and a ‘fixed mindset’

A fixed mindset is where people believe that they are born with their basic intelligence, talents and abilities and that they are pretty much set at that level, with little we as individuals can do to change them.  These people believe that talent is what creates success.

In a growth mindset, people believe that the basic abilities they are born with can be developed. Their talent is purely a starting point, but it can be significantly developed through effort, dedication and hard work.

Depending on which of these mindsets we adopt, it will shape our behavior, how we deal with success and failure and ultimately how happy we are able to be.


What stories do you tell yourself?

It can be common to make up stories about yourself that can limit your ability in certain areas.

Some of the stories I have made up about myself are:

  • “I’m terrible at learning languages’
  • “I’m a disaster at relationships”
  • “I’ll never be able to draw”

These stories can start with some loose facts. For example, I studied French at A level and did not get a good grade. This has now turned into ‘I am terrible at languages’ This will limit my ability to ever learn any language. If we go into something telling ourselves these sorts of stories, there is a strong likelihood we will make them true. If you keep a fixed mindset, you will no doubt never improve at any of these things. With a growth mindset, you will be able to overcome these limiting beliefs you have placed on yourself.


How can you develop a Growth Mindset?

If you want to develop a growth mindset and change the stories that you have made up about yourself, here are some ways to do that:

1) Identify your stories

First of all, identify the stories that you have created about yourself. Being aware of the beliefs you have identified as true about yourself is the first step of  being able to change them. You can separate the fact from the story. In my case, I did not get a good grade in French when I studied it at A Level. This does not directly translate to the fact I am terrible at learning languages. Once I have realized this, I can start to overcome the belief.

2) Adopt the attitude that anything is possible

There is much research available in the area of the growth mindset, you can read up on many of the studies that have been conducted and the science that backs this up. Once you believe anything is possible, and you have seen the examples that back this up, it will help to make it become true in your situation.

3) Focus on the journey not the end result

With a growth mindset, your focus is on the process of learning rather than just striving for an end result. It is the journey rather than the outcome. A good example to illustrate this is running a marathon. Rather than fixating on the marathon itself, concentrate on forming a regular running habit.

4) Analyse how you learn best

Everyone learns differently and processes new information in their own way. Knowing your own preferred style of learning can help make your learning more effective. I learn best by reading up on an idea and then trying it out for myself. Once you have found your preferred learning style, focus on following this method, in order to learn more effectively.

If I go back to the language example, when I was studying languages at college, the learning style in the classroom did not suit me well. Once I found a new way to learn (I used audio lessons on my way to work) I realized that I could learn languages much more easily than I had in the past.

5) Change the way you think of failure

Look at how you think of failure differently. Don’t think about it as a set back, think of it as a learning opportunity. If you made a mistake or did something wrong, or were not able to achieve something as you had hoped, just view it that you have not reached where you want to be yet, but you will keep learning and try again.

If you are able to adopt a strong growth mindset, you can actually eliminate failure totally. There is no such thing as failure, just that you haven’t achieved your goal yet. These situations can be viewed merely as a setback rather than a failure. Just keep trying and you will eventually get there.

6) Adopt small steps of progress

I don’t expect to be able to speak a new language fluently in a month, but if I can improve a small amount each day, over time I will improve significantly. It is sometimes possible to go so slowly that you don’t even notice the results, it just happens and its not until you look back and remember where you started that you can see the improvement.

If you start running every day and go a little bit further each time, before you know it you will have increased your distances with small steps of progress over time. This can be a more motivating way to learn, than giving yourself a huge challenge that can seem daunting and unachievable.


Do you have a growth mindset, or a fixed mindset, or is it different for various aspects if your life? Maybe you have a fixed mindset about your ability at work, but you have a growth mindset about how you can improve in sports. Have you been able to implement a growth mindset in an area you originally thought was fixed? I’d love to hear in the comments below your thoughts on this topic.

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