Choosing the Growth Mindset

Everyone makes mistakes. Like pouring a bowl of cereal and then looking into the fridge only to realize you’re out of milk. You’ve got one really dry bowl of cereal.

So, what are you going to do about it?

Some of us will cringe and beat ourselves up, while others will think about what they can do to prevent that from ever happening again.

Moving On

The difference is between being a perfectionist and acknowledging failure and moving on. Dr. Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford, has done much research on the topic. Her book “Mindset” explains her theory as to why some people find it easier to learn from their mistakes.

According to Dweck, there are two types of people: those with a “fixed mindset” and those with a “growth mindset.” Dweck says that everyone has a bit of both these mindsets in them, but the question is in which direction they lean. Those who tend toward having the “fixed mindset” do well with lots of compliments and external measures of excellence, such as getting an “A” in physics or having someone clap you on the back and say, “Good job!” Fixed mindset people find it difficult or nearly impossible to drink in the lessons implied by mistakes.

That’s a shame. Because the thing is, everyone makes mistakes. The question is how one relates to them. If you can be receptive to your mistakes and learn from them, you’ll be happier. You’ll also be moving in a positive, growth-oriented direction.

Growth Mindset

The “growth mindset” is about allowing every experience to teach you to be open to learning, to be curious. The person with a “growth mindset” looks at the A- at the top of his physics exam and wonders how he can do better next time. What can he do to change? The person with the growth mindset doesn’t pretend he didn’t make a mistake, but uses his mistake to build on, grow and move forward.

Since we all make mistakes, wouldn’t it be far better for us to adopt the growth mindset? Here’s a concrete example: a customer service representative at Kars4Kids received a call from a woman who asked if she could donate a couple of remote controlled toy cars to the charity. She thought that the purpose of this nonprofit organization was to donate toy cars to kids.

It was an awkward, very awkward, moment. When the woman finally understood that her entire concept of this car donation program was woefully off, you can just imagine her cringing in embarrassment and turning red.

Well, that’s assuming she had a “fixed mindset.” On the other hand, if she had a “growth mindset” she might have smiled and laughed at herself and thought, “Next time I’ll remember what they say about the word ‘assume’ making an ass out of u and me and do my due diligence.”

The growth mindset is all about looking toward the next time and learning to grow from even the most horrendous or embarrassing mistakes.

We all make them – mistakes, that is.

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