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How to Adopt a Growth Mindset (and Why You Want to)

Is our intelligence pretty much fixed at birth?

Do star footballers and musicians have some innate talent that the rest of us lack?

Is your potential determined by your genes?

No, no and no.

The idea of a growth mindset is catching on, with books like Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success. We’re not limited by what we can do … but by what we think we can do.

If you have a fixed mindset, you believe that your abilities are pretty much set in stone. Perhaps you’re great with words, but you struggle with numbers. You can paint, but you can’t carry a tune. You can never get your head round new technology, though you’re great at reading maps.

If you have a growth mindset, you believe that you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to. You might struggle with numbers – but you believe that’s because you never paid much attention in math class. You can’t carry a tune – but you’ve never taken a single singing lesson, so that’s no surprise.

People with a fixed mindset tend to avoid challenges. After all, if your abilities are fixed and innate, there’s no point embarrassing yourself by trying something that you just know you’ll be bad at.

People with a growth mindset tend to embrace challenges. After all, if your abilities grow as you use them, you can only get better by trying new things.

From the work of authors like Dweck and Gladwell, it’s clear that people who achieve highly usually have a growth mindset: they’re willing to continually practice in order to get better at what they do.

So … how can you adopt more of a growth mindset?

#1: Stop Saying “I Can’t”

Next time you catch yourself saying, I can’t sing or I can’t write a novel or I can’t draw, stop.

You might not be able to do those things yet … but that doesn’t mean you never will. Try saying:

I’ve never studied singing, so I’m not especially good at it … yet.

Perhaps singing isn’t a priority, and you don’t want to devote the time to learning to sing. That’s fine! Just recognize that if you wanted to, you could. And if the reason you “can’t” is because you’ve tried half-heartedly, check out 12 Ways to Strengthen Your Resolve.

#2: Practice Your Skills

There are plenty of things that you’re already good at. Perhaps you “get” computers and can easily fix problems, or you’re a great writer.

However good you are, though, there’s always room for improvement. Don’t assume that you’ve found your level. You can take your skill further … if you want to.

That means making time for learning and for deliberate practice. Perhaps you’ll invest in a book or course that can help you become a true expert in your chosen field. You might even find a mentor who can show you the next steps.

#3: Keep Trying New Things

I’m quite shy, and I’m also a bit of a perfectionist – so I find it tough to try new things, especially when I know people are watching! But I know that by gradually expanding my comfort zone, I can achieve new goals.

The same goes for you. However shy you feel, or however nervous you are, you can take a step towards something new.

You might try:

  • Public speaking – it really does get easier over time!
  • A new sport or activity – join a beginners’ group, and everyone else will be at the same level as you.
  • Learning a foreign language – if you want a ton of practical and empowering advice on this, head to Fluent in 3 Months.

I know it takes time to change your mindset: I often find myself slipping back into the “fixed” way of thinking. But the more you consciously practice a growth mindset, the more natural it’ll become – and you’ll realize that you can achieve far more than you once thought possible.

What are you trying to achieve? What do you think you could NEVER do? Share your thoughts about this in the comments…

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Related Articles:

The 21 Habits of Healthy People

The Benefits of Meditation


14 Responses to How to Adopt a Growth Mindset (and Why You Want to)

  1. Rógvi C. says:

    Great article! I saw a TEDTalk presentation yesterday which touches on this very topic from an education point of view. He talks about how today’s education system deprives us from creativity and thinking out of the box.
    It’s a great watch! :)

  2. Clint Cora says:

    Since you mentioned public speaking, Toastmasters clubs is a great way to develop such skills and in a very supportive, non-threatening environment. When I was there, it was amazing to watch many people who were so nervous and shy but developed into confident speakers in time.

  3. Jeanette L says:

    Great article! I was just about to write something like this, also based on Carol Dweck’s book. I teach these very concepts at the career college level and always urge people to dream bigger than they think they can achieve. If you can dream it, you can do it — as long as you are willing to invest the time and energy and remain flexible throughout the process.

  4. Hey Ali,

    These are some great tips. I think its important to always have an open mind about anything you are doing. Our limits are endless if we believe that we have the ability within us to be good at a lot of things rather than one or no things.

  5. teo says:

    Complimenti per il vostro lavoro

  6. Great article! I also believe in the growth mindset. Being shy or being nervous to do something is a very good indication that it is really important for you and then you really have to do it. I believe that you can only grow in domains you are really value.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. We do inherit specific abilities, habits and character traits from our parents but they are not set in stone. We could all learn how to throw a curveball but some will be better at it than others no matter how hard we try.

  8. Great points. Very much agreed upon. The people I’ve known who don’t excel in anything or even their “chosen” field, are the ones using “I Can’t”. Everything stops them. They’ve gotten into the habit of saying I can’t whenever anything remotely appears difficult or someone tells them it is difficult or they can’t.

    Negative expectations begets negative results. Change that habit into a positive expectation and they always experience far more success. Of course perseverence works far more wonders than even intelligence.

  9. Mikko says:

    You found some very interesting points there,thank you for your wise words. I’ve been looking for answers for some time now. For a couple of days I read an article that was caalled Your Guide To Personal Growth And Success There were also answers to my questions. Anyway, thanks for your ideas!!

  10. Rosie Gern says:

    The fixed mindset has trapped a lot of people into a life of boredom and stagnation. It’s this mindset that keeps them in what they think are their comfort zones. These people are most often the complainers and the ones who like to blame others. Sadly, a big majority of the people we meet everyday…family, friends, acquaintances…belong to this group. And, if you’re not alert they may pull you into their world.

  11. Rosie Gern says:

    The fixed mindset traps a lot of people into a life of boredom and stagnation. It keeps them in what they believe are their comfort zones.

    The growth mindset is liberating. Through joys and hardships the growth mindset never puts one in a cage. It offers a lot of options.

  12. Greevous says:

     Spoken like someone steeped in a fixed mindset…

    Would it surprise you to know that people like Michael Jordan disagree with you?

  13. Marcos B says:

    How about we all help the next person who suffers from fixed mindsetitus. Thank you,, Have a well day. 😀

  14. Pingback: staff picks: advice from Winston Churchill & other #productivity gurus | Producteev by Jive

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