The Gift of a Growth Mindset

By Greg Nathan posted February 12, 2021

Having a Growth Mindset is a popular concept in business today, because of its relevance to helping people succeed in an environment of adversity and change. But I wouldn't be surprised if you first heard about Growth Mindset from your kids, because it actually comes from the life's work of a humble and dedicated educationalist.

Carol Dweck, who is today Professor of Psychology at Stanford, has spent most of her career trying to understand why some children flourish and fulfil their potential, even though they are not necessarily the smartest or most talented, while others, who are very intelligent or gifted, fail to achieve much. Her research discovered that children who are encouraged to believe in the intrinsic benefits of sticking at difficult tasks to master new skills, are more likely to achieve better results.

This makes sense, as we have all seen how success in business, or indeed any area of life, largely depends on an openness to learning and a preparedness to put in the work. As Dweck says in her best-selling 2007 book, Mindset, “If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach them to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning." So if you want to develop a Growth Mindset in yourself and others, a simple and powerful strategy is to embrace an attitude of trying to improve, rather than prove, yourself. Here's five other strategies that will also help.

5 strategies to develop a Growth Mindset

#1. Treat effort as essential for growth. We all know that, if we want to get fit, we need to suffer some discomfort by working out. We also know that while this hurts a little, it is doing us good by making us stronger. Adopting the attitude that effort = growth, in all our endeavours, makes it easier to keep going without resentment when the going gets tough. And by the way, stretching your brain to think and learn new things, actually does make it stronger.

#2. Welcome feedback. When people give us feedback, we often get defensive because we see it as criticism. But without feedback how are we ever going to improve? So here's a solution. Get on the front foot and ask for feedback. Ask "How can I do this better?" This will put you in control of the process, and you'll feel more positive and engaged.

#3. Study the success of others. Successful business people have a blend of humility and curiosity, Because they want to find out how others achieve success, they read books, attend courses, and ask great questions. For instance, I have noticed that franchisees with a Growth Mindset are always seeking out the best operators in their network to ask how they do things.

#4. Set stretch goals. People with a Growth Mindset like to set stretch goals as a way of building their capacity. A quick and easy way to do this is to ask yourself this question. "If I and my team worked well together over the next 12 months, and everything fell into place, what would we see as a result of our hard work?" Every successful franchisee I have ever met, and I have met thousands, can always tell me their stretch goals with a smile.

#5. Persist in the face of set-backs. This final tip is the most important. People with a growth mindset understand that success takes time, and that it is natural when starting something new, for things to not go well initially. They understand you need to stick with it and work out the kinks.

With this in mind, I will finish with a quote from one of my favourite books on self-improvement, Think and Grow Rich, written by Napoleon Hill in 1937. Not only is this a fun and compelling read, it is based on deep and rigorous research on the keys to success. While the term Growth Mindset wasn't invented when Napolean Hill wrote this book, he arrived at the same conclusion as Carol Dweck did 70 years later.

"Those who have cultivated the habit of persistence seem to enjoy insurance against failure...no one enjoys great achievement without passing the persistence test. Those who can’t take it simply do not make the grade."

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