How to Develop a Growth Mindset!

Growth Mindset is a thought theory developed by Dr Carol Dweck, it has been around for so long, as is so well received that it seems to have suffered the curse of all great thinking – adopted by the mainstream, diluted over time, and inevitably Growth Mindset has become little more than white noise in the background of the activities of humanity.

How to Develop a Growth Mindset!

In real life, thankfully, Growth Mindset is still alive, kicking and very much in the foreground in our schools, which is great news!  I have written before about the importance of self-knowledge, as well as hijacking habits and even how to cultivate motivation, but Growth Mindset is deeper than the management of behaviours and actions!

What is Growth Mindset?

The research put forward by Dr Dweck proposes that there are two mindsets; Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset. Growth Mindset is the belief that talent and ability are the starting points for potential, taking learning from every action, consequence and reaction.  Fixed Mindset is the belief that a human is born with a particular talent and a particular level of possible ability over time.

Matthew Syed wrote about this in his book, Bounce, where he proposes that talent is a myth and that consistent, prolonged practice will inevitably develop and nurture the skill of whatever is being practised – he talks about the ten thousand hour rule (which has taken a few hits in studies since being offered by Malcolm Gladwell).  There is a particular case study on Venus and Serena Williams that is surprising, interesting and compelling; but I’ll let you read about that in his book.

The human brain is capable of change, training and adapting to a wide range of stimuli; that being said it is remarkable how little we actually know of the working of the brain – almost the entire thing is a mystery even with today’s scientific capabilities.  The subject of how to develop, and measure, a Growth Mindset is a hotly debated one.

Here are eight behaviours, and how they relate to the Growth Mindset:


Western society is one that is built on the premise that outcomes are praised, or not, depending upon the outcome. In praising the outcome the effort is not acknowledged, reflected upon, analysed and therefore it cannot be replicated.  Those that are praised for their outcomes are more likely to put in more effort, and those that are either not praised or admonished for their outcomes are less likely to even try.

Recognising application of effort means everyone is treated equally, and on their individual effort, the equation of increased effort and application leads to better outcomes, without outcomes being the driving force for the effort.  The outcome is the reward for the effort.


Anyone can work hard, but as newtons law of physics tells us; an object, once pushed, will move in a straight line until an external force is acted upon it.  Do we really want to be working really hard at making the same mistakes repeatedly?

The external force comes by way of motivational challenges, instead of, “I must try harder” the question becomes, “What can I do differently to change the outcome?


It seems like common sense to work smarter on developing knowledge from learning that will lead to the advancement of ability in a given area.  The fact is that alarmingly high numbers of people act to out-rank another person or people that they consider to be ‘competition’.

Growth Mindset requires a learning-oriented approach to acting, rather than the widely adopted task-oriented ego-centric approach of Fixed Mindset.


Curiosity may well have killed the cat, but it died with a Growth Mindset.

Young children go about their lives with boundless curiosity not caring that the explorations, quests and messiness of their ventures might not make any sense.  Children experience and seek to understand their world with a sense of wonder that is lost over time with the installation of a Fixed Mindset that is given to them by their educators.

Asking for feedback

People with a Growth Mindset view all events as learning experiences whereas the Fixed Mindset sees events as tests.  Developing a Growth Mindset means viewing all feedback as a gift.

Praising the act of seeking the feedback means that this request is more likely to be repeated, which is a positive action following the outcome of any given event; by virtue of the learning provided by the feedback.


The ability to persevere after setbacks is a key skill for any developing being to learn, because life does happen and it’s rarely happening neatly and in an organised fashion.  Rather than persistence being an expectation, and therefore going unacknowledged recognising this behaviour is essential to cultivating a Growth Mindset.

Choosing difficult tasks

Fixed Mindset means equating the making of mistakes with low levels of ability which is both untrue and dangerous.  Of course making mistakes can indicate a low level of ability but where a Growth Mindset would seek these mistakes as learning opportunities which would increase ability over time; Fixed Mindset would avoid anything in which there are known low levels of ability, therefore not creating learning opportunities and inevitably leading to declining performance over time.

Setting high standards

There’s a saying along the lines of Nobody knows you better than you do which is probably true, but even you don’t know you very well.  Not really.  In one study researchers asked participants to cycle as fast as they could for 4000m. Later, the same people were given the same instructions but this time they were to ride against their previous ride. What they didn’t know was that the avatar was actually going faster than their previous ride. Resulting in the participants riding alongside their avatar, riding significantly further than their previous maximal efforts.

What do you think about Growth Mindsets versus Fixed Mindsets, let me know in the comments below?


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