A growth mindset – The best New Year’s resolution you can make
6 minutes read
With 2023 rapidly approaching, are you starting to think about what New Year’s resolutions you’d like to make? Perhaps 2023 is the year that you finally get fit. Perhaps you hope to get a new job, to get out and see more of the world, or to simply spend more time with friends and family.
Myself, I’m going to focus on one particular new year’s resolution that should not only make me a better designer, a better manager and design leader, but also hopefully happier as well. I’m going to work on something that will allow me to gain new skills, to take on new challenges and to develop myself both professionally and personally. What will my new year’s resolution be? I want to work on my growth mindset. Read on to find out what a growth mindset is, why having one is so important and some tips for nurturing your own growth mindset.
What’s a growth mindset?
The term growth mindset was coined by Carol Dweck, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Her research with students identified that there are two key mindsets when it comes to learning and development. A fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
Those with a fixed mindset believe that traits, such as intelligence, talent and personality are largely fixed and therefore any limitations cannot be easily overcome. Someone with a fixed mindset will see failure as a reflection of their own limitations, and will focus on the outcome, rather than seeing the journey as a learning opportunity.
As you might have already guessed someone with a growth mindset on the other hand believes that their abilities and traits are not fixed, they can grow. As Carol Dweck outlines.
“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.”Carol Dweck
Rather than fixating on the outcome or worrying about failure someone with a growth mindset will see value in the journey. To provide a simple example, whilst someone with a fixed mindset might become despondent if they don’t get an offer following a job interview, blaming their own shortcomings, someone with a growth mindset will see it as a learning opportunity and a chance to identify areas for improvement.
Whilst individuals will certainly trend towards either a fixed or growth mindset, this can vary at both the macro and micro level. As Carol Dweck points out, “Everyone is a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. You could have a predominant growth mindset in an area, but there can still be things that trigger you into a fixed mindset trait.”.
Why is having a growth mindset important?
Having a growth mindset is important because it can lead to a lifetime of learning and personal growth. When you have a growth mindset challenges become opportunities, failures becoming learnings and feedback becomes fuel for growth. As Carol Dweck outlines.
“This (growth mindset) view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking, oh, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here’s a chance to grow.”Carol Dweck
Having a growth mindset is not only important for your learning and development, but for your own wellbeing as well. Research has shown that people with a growth mindset are less likely to experience mental health issues and stress due to life events than those with a fixed mindset.
So, it’s clearly better to have a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset. But how can you nurture a growth mindset? Here are some tips for doing just that.
Tips for nurturing your growth mindset
Get outside your comfort zone
Having a growth mindset is much more than just having a particular viewpoint. A growth mindset is about putting your money where your mindset is by seeking out new learning opportunities and getting outside your comfort zone.
If you have a growth mindset you need to be comfortable being uncomfortable because outside your comfort zone is where you really learn and develop. Think about new challenges you could take on. Perhaps learning a new skill, taking on a new role, or something you’d never previously dreamt of doing, like presenting at a conference for the first time.
Create a learning and development plan
There are a million and one challenges that you could take on, and a million and one ways that you could develop and learn. It’s therefore important to have a learning and development plan to help focus your efforts.
Start by thinking about what you want to achieve in the next 12 months and what skills and traits you’ll need to be able to do that. You can then identify weaknesses to develop, and strengths to build on. This will help you to identify your key development areas. For example, you might have identified that stakeholder management and presenting are two areas you’d like to work on. Keep development areas to no more than 2 or 3, otherwise you’ll lack focus and risk taking too much on.
For each development area think about goals and learning activities for the next 3, 6 and 12 months. It’s good to keep in mind the 70-20-10 learning framework. This outlines that learning is best achieve through:
- 70% of on-the-job experience. In other words, learning by doing.
- 20% of interactions with others, either learning with others or through coaching and mentoring.
- 10% of formal training, such as courses and conferences.
Don’t worry about getting the exact mixture of learning approaches right, the important thing is that you identify learning activities that move you towards your goal.
Feedback is your fuel for growth. If you’re not regularly getting feedback, how do you know how you’re doing and what you should be working on? It’s therefore important to regularly reach out to colleagues for feedback. You don’t want to just find out what you’re doing well, you want to know the good, the bad and the ugly. If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to a colleague yourself then why not ask your manager to do so on your behalf.
When seeking feedback, it’s important to ask for specifics. Specific details, specific examples, and specific areas for growth. Feedback telling you that you’re not a very good presenter isn’t very insightful. Feedback telling you which presentation skills are a weakness, along with examples where you have struggled in the past is exactly the sort of feedback that can really help you grow.
Plan your growth time
In my experience rather than trying to find the odd hour here and there for your own learning and development it’s better to schedule some dedicated time. Think about when you can set dedicated time aside for your own growth. For example, perhaps you can carve out some regular time before or after your working day, or even include it as part of your working week.
Start your day with a plan
By starting your day with a plan you can help to activate your growth mindset. Think about what you want to achieve, how you can find time for your own learning and development and how you can best approach your day with a growth mindset. The Career Psychologist website has a useful daily resilience working from home checklist with some excellent prompts and questions to ask yourself at the start of each day.
Whilst a growth mindset means that you should always be looking ahead for interesting new challenges and growth opportunities, it’s also important to regularly look back as well. I’ve found it useful to have an end of week review on a Friday afternoon when I’ll spend 10 minutes capturing:
- How my week was and why.
- What went well.
- What could have been better.
- What I accomplished.
- What I learnt.
- What my priorities are for next week.
- How I can make next week a success.
This helps me to reflect on how I’ve grown during the week and how I can continue my growth the next. I’ve created an End of week reflections template (PDF) to help me record this which you can download and use yourself.
A growth mindset is not just for Christmas, it’s not just for your next promotion, or until you’ve mastered a new skill, it should be for life. To continue to grow and nurture your growth mindset it’s important that you are forever curious.
Seek out opportunities to learn and grow, but embrace the journey, don’t just fixate on the end goal. For example, I’ve stumbled into becoming a coach for my son’s football team (or soccer team for any non-European readers). I’ve learnt and continue to learn a huge amount from being a coach, and whilst I certainly didn’t initially see it as a growth opportunity (it was more a case that the team is going to fold unless some parents step up to become coaches) it has proven to an invaluable learning exercise. I’ve learnt things which not only make me a better football coach, but also a better leader and manager.
Having a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset is not only important for your own learning and development, it might also just help you get to where you want in your career. As Carol Dweck points out:
“Many growth-minded people didn’t even plan to go to the top. They got there as a result of doing what they love. It’s ironic: The top is where the fixed-mindset people hunger to be, but it’s where many growth-minded people arrive as a by-product of their enthusiasm for what they do.”Carol Dweck