Reality Check: The Importance of a Growth Mindset on Personal Development

Reality Check: The Importance of a Growth Mindset on Personal Development

As humans, we’re all basically looking for two things: how to survive and thrive, and how to spend the least amount of calories at any given moment. We are driven to live as long as possible with as little effort as possible.

We live in a time when we are trying to do more and be more than ever before — and so, it’s easy to understand why we tend to be interested in learning more about shortcuts that can put us on the fast track to success.

Enter the modern conversation around MINDSET.

There seem to be countless coaches, consultants, authors, and others who would lead us to believe that a success mindset is like a switch that can turn on or off. Their videos, ads, and programs promise to help us flip our own internal switch, leading to achievement of our wildest dreams. Once we’ve adopted a Growth Mindset, they promise, there’s nothing holding us back from unimaginable wealth and acclaim.

So, can it really be so simple? Can we change our lives by simply changing how we perceive things?

To answer this question, we took a Synaptic Approach and sought out academic and researched-based wisdom.

We begin with the origin of the term ‘Mindset’, which emerged as a result of the work of a young Stanford researcher in the 1980’s. Carol Dwek’s research and the resulting book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Her work, originally focused on schoolchildren and academic settings, suggests that when people believe see failure as a step to success, they are more likely to put in the kind of effort that will eventually lead to that success. This is a Growth Mindset.

If you have a Growth Mindset, it means that you perceive things that that happen to you in the belief that your talents and achievement aren’t fixed, but fluid:

  • You believe that through hard work, dedication, and asking for help, you can improve your intelligence and your ability to learn new skills.

  • You’re not worried about what others might think and and put your energy into learning rather than worrying.

  • You assume the best from yourself and others.

By contrast, those who believe that success or failure is due to in-born ability (a Fixed Mindset) believe:

  • You were born with your gifts and talents and that there’s nothing you can do to change them.

  • You’re either naturally smart, or you’re not, and no amount of trying can make a difference to that. That means you’re less motivated to push yourself.

  • Your priority is simply to avoid failure, and you know that learning something new will involve setbacks.

Mindset graphic

Clearly, a growth mindset is important for personal development and growth. No wonder Dweck’s original findings have driven countless other people to finding a clear, direct, and short path to achieving it.

Because Growth Mindset is such a powerful and popular concept, people seek out a rush to its attainment. This shortcut-seeking approach can lead to what’s called the “false growth mindset”—and it’s based on a misunderstanding of the idea’s core message.

A False Growth Mindset includes the following earmarks, not only for how you perceive yourself, but for how you perceive those around you:

  • Perceiving a mindset as fixed and permanent

  • Emphasizing effort over progress, ignoring outcomes and just rewarding effort, regardless if your hard work is getting results or not

  • Blaming a mindset instead of refocusing it.

  • Considering a Growth Mindset as a prerequisite to action.

  • Falling short on compassion and empathy when things go wrong.

How can we adopt a Growth Mindset? First, we should abandon the notion that there may be a shortcut to doing so. There’s no one single thing that leads to a Growth Mindset and getting there requires more than just thinking about positivity or success. Over-simplifying this concept can actually work against us … when we feel ourselves being resistant to new ideas or dwelling on failure, we can feel like all hope is lost and shift into Fixed Mindset.

We must also acknowledge that everyone is actually a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. There is no such thing as a pure and permanent Growth Mindset. The fact is, no one is ever going to have a full growth mindset in all areas of their life.

It’s a process that’s achieved by adopting habits while realize that changing our mind is not a small or easy task. Growth Mindset is also only one piece of the success puzzle that must be paired with other traits including grit and skill.

Even if a fully Growth-focused Mindset were achievable, there are drawbacks to placing too heavy an emphasis on it. When we focus too much on the learning, we can start to work against ourselves, as Kevin Kruse notes in a recent Forbes article: “The danger is when you let learning become a form of procrastination. The problem is when the pursuit of “growth” becomes analysis paralysis.”

“Growth mindset is a great thing; learning is a good thing. But don’t let learning become the thing itself. It’s the thing that gets you to the thing.”

Here’s the bottom line: In the end, success comes from action. To get there, set goals and then focus on the action. Along the way, commit to freeing yourself little by little from your constricting fixed mindset and moving to a Growth Mindset while your success story unfolds.

Wait for nothing.

You’ve got this.

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