Having a growth mindset is the single most important thing you will need in order to succeed in your career transition. It’s the difference between rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty and… giving up before you even begin. The difference between success and failure.
What is the growth mindset?
Coined by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: the psychology of success (2006), mindsets are quite simply beliefs we hold about ourselves and our qualities, specifically about our intelligence, talents and abilities. In a nutshell, she demonstrated how the way we think & feel about learning affects the way we actually learn (or don’t).
Here’s how this goes: if you believe these qualities (intelligence, talent, abilities, creativity) are innate and fixed (that is, you have a certain amount, you’re born with them or you build them until a certain age and that’s that) – you likely have a fixed mindset. On the contrary, if you believe that success is the outcome of effort, hard work and persistence you probably are likely have a growth mindset.
If you find yourself thinking ‘no no nooooooooo – I have a fixed mindset [gasp]!!!’, you don’t need to worry, there’s good news: this is not a black or white situation; it seems we are all on a spectrum running from fixed to growth, with a tendency towards one of the two; in fact, this can change by the date, by the topic, by the mood…. I guess what I’m saying is: with a little effort, you can actually change your mindset. Yes, as it turns out even our mindset itself is not a given – you can consciously work towards improving it!
Why is mindset important?
Well, your mindset plays a crucial role in how you run your life. With a fixed mindset, you are likely to constantly aim to prove yourself, to have your every move validated; you are consumed by questions such as how will x make me look? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I look smart or dumb? A winner or a loser? Consequently, your life is likely more stressful and, ironically, less successful.
On the other hand, if you have a growth mindset, chances are setbacks don’t discourage you, on the contrary! They stimulate you to continue to strive for improvement; the more you strive, the more you achieve and… the more you achieve, the more you are motivated to continue! You view the hands you’re dealt in life as just your starting point – and you take life up on the challenge to make the most of them; a virtuous cycle, of sorts. As a result you constantly stretch yourself and reach new and sometimes unexpected highs, making you more successful and content.
I mean, think about it: if you don’t believe you can grow, whatever the topic (‘I’m not techy’, for instance) – then chances are you won’t be putting in the hours to learn to code, so you won’t grow, thus demonstrating to yourself you had been right all along… Conversely, believe that with enough effort you can improve and become a great coder, you’ll be more likely to engage in learning and challenge yourself which will lead to real growth and, before you know it, bingo! You are on your way to a new career. Again, you were right!
So I guess what I’m saying is – remember this: belief -> action -> growth.
What is my mindset?
Turns out the majority of people are not necessarily aware of their own mindset; however, behaviour, especially at reaction to failure can cue you in quite easily. If you dread failure and worry your mistakes make you ‘look bad’, you probably have a fixed mindset. Conversely, if you don’t mind failure and look at mistakes as learning opportunities, chances are you have a growth mindset. Here’s a nice tool that can help you figure out what your mindset is.
How do I develop a growth mindset?
1. Understand your brain. The very first thing to do is to be aware of this theory – congratulations, you’re well on your way to a growth mindset! Read more on mindset, on how your brain works, on neuroplasticity (spoiler alert: the brain’s a muscle and the more you use it the better it gets) – and you’ll realise you’re a work in progress and it’s all up for grabs! Understanding that the qualities you admire and wish you had are achievable will likely fire you up and generate a passion for learning.
2. Then take the time to understand yourself. Nothing like a bit of self-awareness – identify your strengths and weaknesses; decide where you want to go and what skills you need to get you there. Then make a plan to fill the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. Reflect on what you have learnt already and how you got there:and then take that same approach to filling the gap
3. Next, stretch yourself, even (especially !) if it’s hard. Don’t play it safe; regard challenges as opportunities to be embraced – but be strategic. Start slow: pick one skill, make that a success then let the progress you make build up your momentum. Sometimes it’ll work the first time around; other times, most often than not, it won’t – not at first. Take risks, get outside of your comfort zone, go the extra mile, be gritty and then, whenever you find yourself struggling with a task, tell yourself you haven’t mastered it ‘just yet’ – then take a step back and try different tactics. And when you you’ve done it – celebrate by setting a new goal!
4. Next, surround yourself by people who challenge you and push you to grow. Don’t look for easy compliments, and don’t seek approval – they will not get you anywhere. Talk about your objectives with your friends and family and then let them know when you’ve achieved a new milestone, and celebrate your effort and your perseverance. Better yet, find someone who shares your journey and make it a priority to give each other feedback and celebrate the wins, big and small, while holding each other accountable!
5. Finally, be sure to acknowledge and embrace imperfection. This is likely not only to impact your growth, but also your wellbeing. Instead of focusing on achieving perfection (usually unattainable anyway!), focus on the process: look for ways to improve, even a little, every day, take intentional steps and enjoy each little ‘win’ – just make sure you keep an eye on your goal so you can steer in the right direction. Point being to not hold yourself to impossible standards that ultimately set you up for failure.
Long story short: we don’t control what life throws at us, we don’t control our environment and we definitely don’t control what people think or say. What we DO control, however, is what we think. So the smart thing to do is to make the effort to remember that beliefs impact our actions which, in turn, determine our growth. Do that, and you will have set yourself up for success.