Fixed vs Growth Mindset: 2 Attitudes that Shape How We Live & Work - 7pace
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Published:Aug 17, 2021

Fixed vs Growth Mindset: 2 Attitudes that Shape How We Live & Work

Remember back in grade school, when you were on a sports team or in art class, and some kids just seemed to be naturals?

They didn’t seem to have to work at learning plays or painting techniques. They just picked them up naturally and were better than all the other kids, right from the get-go.

We like to say people like that have natural talent. But there’s a problem with that: It discounts all the other kids on the team who might not have picked a skill up seemingly effortlessly, but who became stars through a lot of practice and hard work.

This is an example of fixed and growth mindsets. The way you think about things like talent and intelligence can have major effects on your life and work — especially as a developer.

Fixed vs Growth Mindset: What’s the Difference?

Fixed and growth mindsets represent two different schools of thought when it comes to intelligence and talent.

Fixed vs Growth Mindset: What’s the Difference?

People with fixed mindsets believe that everyone has the amount of talent and intelligence they have, and it doesn’t change over time.

People with growth mindsets believe that talent and intelligence are just like any other skill — that you can improve them over time.

These two mindsets come from Stanford University Psychologist Carol Dweck, who wrote that people with fixed mindsets believe “they have a certain amount [of intelligence] and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb.” On the other hand, she wrote, people with growth mindsets “understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching, and persistence.”

People with growth mindsets are more likely to:

  • Believe in lifelong learning.
  • Put in effort to learn new things.
  • Believe in working toward mastery of their skills.
  • Look at failures as just temporary setbacks.
  • View feedback as an important source of information that can help them improve.
  • Willingly embrace new challenges.
  • Be inspired by others’ success.

People with fixed mindsets are more likely to:

  • Avoid learning because it seems pointless.
  • Give up easily.
  • Hide their flaws to avoid judgement from others.
  • View failures as personal failings, not just setbacks.
  • Ignore feedback or take it as personal criticism.
  • Avoid challenges to avoid failure.
  • Feel threatened by others’ success.

Why Your Mindset Makes a Difference in Your Life

From the lists above, you can already see some of the ways your mindset can matter in your life.

Remember the example from the very beginning of this article? Let’s circle back to that.

Say you’re in math class. There’s one kid who never seems to struggle, who picks up new math subjects seemingly without having to put in any work at all. For you, it’s not that easy. So you have two choices. You can:

  • Assume that you don’t have the same natural talent for math as that other kid, and consider yourself a lost cause.
  • Study and work hard to learn new math skills.

If you have a fixed mindset, you might choose the first option and just never learn math. That means you won’t have the option later in life to pursue career paths that require good math skills.

But if you have a growth mindset and choose the second option, not only will you learn math skills, but you’ll learn other valuable skills in the process: Time management from studying, determination, self-discipline, and perseverance.

That’s just one small example that shows the huge impact your mindset can have on your life.

How a Growth Mindset Can Help You Succeed at Work

The same goes for work. Your mindset can affect everything about the way you work — from how you take feedback to your willingness to take on new projects to how you treat team members as a manager.

At work, people with growth mindsets are more likely to:

  • Want to learn and grow new and existing skills.
  • Encourage teammates to work hard, practice, and learn new things.
  • Work harder at things that challenge them.
  • Easily overcome setbacks and come up with new ways to solve problems when one path fails.
  • Take feedback in stride and use it to make their work better.
  • Jump at the chance to attempt new projects or challenges.
  • Celebrate and encourage teammates’ success.

All of these are qualities that organizations value. But people with fixed mindsets are more likely to:

  • Avoid learning new skills, processes, and workflows.
  • Give up when faced with challenges.
  • Discourage team members from trying new things.
  • Hide or cover up their failures.
  • Take feedback personally or ignore it altogether.
  • Feel threatened by their teammates’ success.

To understand how much these two mindsets can impact your work, just look at the two lists above and ask yourself: Which of these teammates would you rather work with? It’s clear that people with growth mindsets have more skills and traits that will be valued by their organizations, their managers, and their teammates.

Why Developers Need Growth Mindsets

For developers, learning new skills, striving toward mastery, and taking on new challenges are not optional; they’re integral parts of the job.

That’s why having a growth mindset is so important for developers — but it’s not the only reason.

There’s a common misconception that good programmers are born, not made. And understanding fixed and growth mindsets helps prove that that’s not the case. We might have once thought that brains stop developing when we’re children (fixed mindset), but more modern study of our brains has shown that we’re capable of learning and growing throughout our entire lives (growth mindset).

How to Develop a Growth Mindset

Here’s where things get tricky: People don’t usually belong to a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Most people have beliefs that fall into both categories. For example, it’s pretty common for people to believe that anyone can learn a new skill with practice and hard work, but that your level of intelligence is just something you’re born with.

So when it comes to developing more beliefs that align with a growth mindset, we’re all starting from different places.

Here are some ways you can practice having a growth mindset, keeping in mind that developing more growth-aligned beliefs will, itself, take practice and time.

Embrace Your Weaknesses

Step one: See your weaknesses as challenges, not failures. Embrace them and commit to working to overcome them, rather than just accepting them as a part of you.

See Challenges as Opportunities

Don’t be afraid of challenges, or think of them as opportunities to fail. Instead, think of them as opportunities to learn new skills, apply new practices, and overcome setbacks to succeed in the long-term.

Don’t Take Feedback Personally

We know this is easier said than done, but try to see feedback for what it is: An opportunity to improve. Feedback should show you exactly where and how you need to improve, which gives you a chance to problem-solve and get better.

Learn Every Day — and Keep Track of It

Journaling is a great way to hold yourself accountable for having a growth mindset. Try to learn new things every day, and then take to your journal to reflect on the new things you’ve learned, skills you’ve practiced or improved, or challenges you’ve overcome. As an added bonus, if you ever get stuck in a pattern of fixed mindset thinking, you can look back at past successes in your journal to remind yourself that you are capable of growth.

Set a New Goal Every Time You Accomplish One

A good way to encourage lifelong learning is to set a new goal for yourself every time you accomplish an existing goal. That way you’re always working toward something new.

Remember Learning Takes Time

When learning and growth don’t happen overnight, it’s tempting to give up trying. Keep in mind that giving up is a trait of fixed-mindset thinkers. Learning is like anything else in life — it takes time.

Remember That Our Brains Are Always Changing

Neuroscience is proof: Our brains continue to change throughout our entire lives. That means that nothing about intelligence, talent, or skill is fixed. Keep that in mind when you encounter challenges or setbacks. When it comes to your growth mindset, science is on your side.

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ANMOL

09-20-2022

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