If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t you’re right!

Closed and Growth Mindset
Carol Dweck is a psychologist at Stamford University. Her interest in all things to do with the mind began at school. Her teacher arranged the children’s seating in the classroom in terms of their IQ; Dweck finding herself at the front of the class since she possessed the highest IQ in her class.

This post is not about the somewhat dubious educational strategy of organising your class by IQ; rather, it’s about what this sparked in Dweck in terms of her thinking and what would eventually become a passion in her to help people view their mindset not as pre-determined and fixed but something that could be changed.

It was psychologist, Dweck who also coined the phrase Growth Mindset. This post will explain what that is and what you can do to change your mind.

Growth Mindset
Dweck’s studies revealed an interesting discovery. She found that people tended to fall into one of two groups: those who believed that their talents and abilities were pre-determined and were unable to change (Dweck called this a fixed mindset) and those who believed that they could constantly improve their skills and abilities (what Dweck called a growth mindset). Those who fell into the fixed mindset saw failure as defining who they were so life’s constant challenges generated constant failure and low self-worth. The net effect was that future challenges were shied away from.

Those who fell into the growth mindset saw ‘failure’ as opportunity to do better next time. ‘Failure’ was simply a learning opportunity for skills to improve next time. And, as you can see from the speech marks used, ‘failure’ was not a word that growth mindset people accept as defining them.

Dweck is quoted as saying, “People in a growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch… The fixed mindset doesn’t allow people the luxury of becoming [someone or something better]. They have to already be.”

Simply put, growth mindset says that your mind can grow and improve. It will take practice and determination but it’s something that you can do.

Techniques that work
What follows are some useful techniques that encourage a growth mindset approach not just in yourself but in those around you.

You personally

If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t you’re right!

This is a very powerful quote. Deciding that you can do something is half the battle. Now, I’m not talking about things that are clearly beyond your present skill-set; I’m referring to things that given different circumstances you can do; yet, for various reasons you find yourself saying, “I can’t!”

This can be particularly the case in performance circumstances. The point is: if you can do it, you can do it! What’s preventing you thinking that you can? Identify what that is and your half way there to changing your mind! Actually resolving what it was that was preventing you might take a little longer but it can be done. If you need help doing this please contact me.

You can, you know! My mum, a very wise lady, used to tell me what she was taught at school. ‘There’s no such thing as can’t. Take off the ‘t’ and it’s can!” How can you lose the ‘t’ today? Let me know; I’d love to hear your stories.

For others
Firstly, giving praise for effort is a vital self-esteem and therefore growth mindset per-requisite. Those lacking in self-esteem may well be so for two reasons: 1) they never received any or enough praise 2) what was praised was their ability or intelligence and not their effort. Point 2) needs some explanation.

If we praise ability and intelligence: “You are such a clever person for solving that…” we reinforce that intelligence is defined by solving the problem. The issue comes when someone faces something they are unable to solve. Praising intelligence and not effort means that the person unable to complete the task has it reinforced that they are now not clever. What then tends to happen is that the person won’t accept and take on new challenges. In effect their mindset becomes fixed. Incidentally, this is particularly significant for those who are naturally successful in what they do. A praise culture that rewards ability and not effort becomes unstuck when the ‘successful’ person meets something they are unable to do. Rapidly, their mindset closes.

What we should always praise is effort. Comments such as, “You’ve worked so hard on that, well done!” clearly focuses on the effort involved. Effort is a growth mindset word and countless research from Dweck and many other psychologists validate praising effort as the key to a life of continuous improvement.

No one’s a mind reader!
We might wish that they were but they’re not. If we expect them to be we’ve adopted a closed mindset: we’re assuming that they can’t be anything else other than what we think they are. They shouldn’t be expected to mind read. If they can so much the better, just don’t expect them to be! What would it be like if you just told them? And: “What would it be like if you made the effort to notice what the other person might need in the first place?!”

In summary, commit today to a growth mindset. To a mindset that says: “I’m going to give this a go!” No, you might not reach your goal. But remember, what you do is what you do, it’s not who you are. You might reach your goal too! If so, reward yourself for the effort that you employed.

I would love to hear about your stories of closed and growth mindset as well as stories of challenges undertaken focussing on effort. Write your comments below. If you want to know more about Growth Mindset and how you can change your mind contact me here or by using the links on the homepage for a free, informal chat.