Some believe that intelligence is a fixed characteristic which we can’t grow or develop. However, recent research into ‘growth mindset’ suggests that academic performance and intelligence can be learned.
When I was at school, I wasn’t naturally good at some academic subjects so truly believed I was unintelligent; and was told so in no uncertain terms. In the bottom set for most of the ‘important’ subjects, not believing for one moment that I was capable to understand things. I got lost and behind with no chance of ever catching up, so spent many years of my life suffering with low confidence and fear that I just wasn’t good enough.
My saving grace was great parents who believed in me. I was allowed to choose subjects I liked and which played to my strengths, not weaknesses. Fortunately, this happened early enough for me to apply myself and I left school with the Girl of the Year award, great qualifications and a school full of stunned teachers. Against the odds, this impacted on the confidence I had in myself and my ability which lasted years. Only now in my late 40’s do I acknowledge that I am good enough and If I put my mind to it, I can learn anything.
Fortunately, schools are very different these days and I first came across the concept of growth mindset at my daughter’s school and the wonderful Mrs Decadent, who has helped teach my daughter and I about the power of this concept. You might be wondering what has growth mindset got to do with me, leadership and business? So, let me tell you.
When she believed that she could, she did
Having a growth mindset means that you believe you can grow. Once when we believe this we can achieve almost anything. I like to think that if you can imagine it, you can do it but we can only imagine what is possible for us. When we think of possibilities rather than impossibilities it’s surprising what happens.
Through increased understanding of neuroscience and neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to form and reorganise neural connections – we now know that our brains can develop, adapt and change. This has been demonstrated in many ways such as the impact of meditation on happiness and depression, as well as the learning of new skills with practise and discipline.
Our brains can adapt
American psychologist Carol Dweck has introduced the term ‘growth mindset’ alongside influential research and evidence that effort leads to success – you can develop intelligence. Expectation and attitude can change our neurology so we can achieve more by trying. As Darwin and many others since have recognised, it’s our ability to change and adapt that has been key to our existence and survival.
With this, it’s important to compare a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, to see how the latter can help us achieve more. People who have a fixed mindset believe their characteristics and qualities such as intelligence and talent are fixed traits. They believe that talent alone can create success and don’t necessarily have the belief or desire to do much to develop it.
7 things that people with a fixed mindset might say include:
- I’m not good at this
- They’re brighter than me
- I give up
- I can’t make this better
- This is too hard
- I made a mistake
- I just can’t do it
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that keeps repeating itself.
Having a growth mindset on the other hand enables people to believe that their abilities and skills can be developed through dedication and hard work.
So, what are people like that have a growth mindset? They embrace learning & challenges, deal with uncertainties, persevere, see opportunity, are resilient, more productive, go the extra mile and achieve more.
Here are 7 things that people with a growth mindset say to themselves:
- What am I missing
- I can do it, it just may take some time
- I’ll try a different approach
- Is this really my best work?
- I can always improve
- Mistakes help me learn
- I’ll learn how to do this
By embracing a growth mindset, we can be more open to possibility, take on new challenges, deal with uncertainty and grow in all aspects of lives.
Personal growth and development is a responsibility and not one to be taken lightly. It can be challenging, it can be liberating, and it requires persistence and commitment. It’s too easy to give up and stop learning but for a leader this is not an option.
So, try and develop your growth mindset. Learn something new, take a new approach to challenges and enjoying the journey to achieving more.
Please share your thoughts with us – we love to hear from you – as we are only reflections of one another and we learn together.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jenny Rossiter is a leading coach and human behaviour specialist and founder of Feel Good Leadership. Author of The Masks that Men Wear and The Masks that Women Wear, for more than 20 years she has delivered leadership coaching and programmes which challenge and inspire new thinking by using practical strategies and techniques to form healthy habits. Because people who feel good achieve extraordinary things.