Future me —Developing a growth mindset

By Synergy Health | 30 March 2020

Article at a glance

This article is the first in our four-part ‘Future Me’ series which looks at four skills the modern employee needs to cope with the changing career landscape.  Faster, innovative technology and global trends are driving organisations to respond and implement regular change to workplace structures, job roles, systems and culture.  While some individuals thrive on change, some people find adapting and responding to constant change highly stressful.

The Future Me series will help you work on four key skills including developing a growth mindset, problem-solving, adapting to new technology and how to collaborate with a diverse workforce. 

What is growth mindset?

Our series starts with focusing on how to develop and utilise a ‘Growth Mindset’.  A growth mindset is a belief that through effort, learning and persistence we can adapt our character, intelligence and skills over time.  This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for higher achievement. 

Conversely, a fixed mindset is the belief our basic character, intelligence and talent are fixed traits.  We are reluctant to learn anything new and rely on our existing talents for success without putting in any additional time or effort.

Previously, it was believed that our brain structure was fixed once it was fully developed and we were unable to grow new brain cells (neurogenesis).  However, a growing body of research shows that through learning, effort and applying a growth mindset we can change our brain’s synaptic connections through a process called neuroplasticity. 

A growth mindset is an essential skill for helping you thrive not only in the workplace but in all areas of life.  If you embrace the idea you can improve yourself, you will not only be resilient to any challenges you face but you will also seek out new opportunities to grow and develop.  Whether that’s breaking a bad habit, learning a new system or skill at work, a new language, movement, art etc.  Having a growth mindset also improves your confidence and reduces your stress and anxiety levels as you back yourself to accomplish any goal. 

What influences a fixed or growth mindset?

Whether you have a growth or a fixed mindset is usually set in the formative early years of life and shaped by our upbringing, education and career. We are all born with a unique genome and brain structure, meaning we are naturally better than others at different things. If we relied on our natural talents to get us through school, university or even our first job roles without too much effort or challenge, we may not have learnt the valuable skills needed for learning or work ethic.

This sets us up to have a predominantly fixed mindset. These talents may also have been rewarded or recognised, strengthening our fixed mindset that no additional effort or time is required to achieve or improve. Everyone knows someone that appeared to cruise through school or university on their natural abilities without too much effort. These people may now struggle when faced with any challenges or new ways of working in a dynamic career landscape.

If you were praised and rewarded early on for learning and improving, you may have developed a growth mindset and a belief that with effort you can catch up and even surpass others natural talents.

How do I know if I have a fixed or growth mindset?

Many of us operate with either a fixed and growth mindset at times but predominantly we do apply one over the other.  To help you assess whether you have a growth or fixed mindset, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I feel most engaged and energised when I am learning something new?
  2. Am I open to new ideas and ways of working? 
  3. Do I view criticism as constructive or an opportunity for growth? 
  4. Do I view any challenges I encounter as an opportunity for learning and growth? 
  5. Do I have a curious mind, do I ask a lot of questions to learn about new ideas or processes? 
  6. Do I enjoy working with a diverse workforce to inspire and influence my own development? 
  7. Am I focused on the process of goal achievement over the outcome? 
  8. Am I confident I can overcome any challenge and achieve any goal I put my mind to?
  9. If you answered yes to the majority of these questions then this would suggest you have a predominant growth mindset.

How can I develop a growth mindset?

As you now know, you have the ability to change the structure of your brain and overcome a fixed mindset.  Being aware of your existing mindset, strengths, weaknesses and existing biases holding you back from growth is the first step in helping you develop a dominant growth mindset. 

Below are some further strategies to help you develop a growth mindset. 

Regain your curiosity and love of learning

  • Make learning a priority. Take the time at the start of the week to set aside time for learning or integrate into an existing work task.
  • Reflect on how you learn best and the resources you need. Are you an auditory, visual or kinaesthetic (learning through doing) learner? 
  • Identify areas for growth and seek out experts in your field to learn from their success and mistakes.
  • Surround yourself with people that inspire and challenge you regularly that you can learn from.
  • Expose yourself to new media and ideas on a daily basis through reading, podcasts, documentaries etc.  See ‘Our Picks' for some inspiration. 
  • Keep asking questions to identify and understand new processes or help evaluate your existing performance. Ask yourself on a daily basis ’why do I work this way? Am I achieving my end goal or is there a more effective way of working?’
  • Mix up your routine to avoid boredom and challenge your brain, it will help build your curiosity and an appetite for learning.
  • Reduce your mindless phone use as it may reduce your ability for deep thinking or critical analysis. 

Reframe challenge as opportunities

  • Remind yourself you have the ability to change your brain, learn and improve your skills. If you are feeling demotivated or overwhelmed when faced with a challenge, reflect on a similar challenge you overcame and have confidence in your ability to do this again. 
  • Be grateful for those challenges you face and see them as an opportunity to learn and develop. Many people in this world don’t have the same opportunities or resources available for growth. 
  • View constructive criticism as another opportunity to learn and grow, take the time to reflect and make changes if needed and ask your critic to evaluate your success.

Monitor and reflect on learning

  • Set small achievable goals, focus on the process of goal attainment instead of the achievement of the end goal or to receive approval from others. 
  • Set aside time at the end of the week to reflect on your progress and plan for the following week.

To make a start, you can learn more a growth mindset by watching this Ted talk from Carol Dweck, a lead researcher on ‘growth mindset’.  

Synergy Health delivers wellbeing, safety and engagement programs to some of New Zealand and Australia's most successful organisations


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