Growth v fixed mindset – stress management – employee wellbeing
26 June 2019

It’s All in the Mindset!

Growth v fixed mindset – stress management – employee wellbeing

Our lives these days are incredibly busy, and many people are trying to juggle too many plates, both at work and at home. Some of us cope well with all that china. Others are much more easily flummoxed. The difference may be because of the way we see the world and approach challenges.

Are you someone who gets knocked over by flying crockery (remember the plate juggling) and still gets up with a smile and says “Bring it on! Let’s get this thing sorted! This is BRILLIANT!”? If so, you’ve probably got a growth mindset.

If life knocks you flying and you stay down, dazed and maybe a bit upset, you may have a fixed mindset.

American academic Carol Dwek defined mindsets as follows: In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.

As Hamlet put it, life is full of “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and people with a growth mindset tend to weather storms more successfully than those with a fixed mindset.

Some people are born with a growth mindset, but if you’re not, the good news is that you can – if you wish – develop it.

As an HR consultant, all I ever seem to hear from people is how stressed and unhappy they are. That’s a real shame. Yet, all too often they are not taking any basic steps to help themselves. Life can be awful sometimes - even for the luckiest people - but there’s so much you can do to help yourself. I advise my client employers to do what they can to encourage their employees to cope with stress and reduce their vulnerability by adopting a growth mindset.

What can you do to help develop yourself and your team?

Start by focusing on the processes and the effort made that allows people to be successful, you give them a template they can reproduce.

Just telling people to try harder isn't enough to promote a growth mindset. Try asking questions, such as, 'what could I do differently?'. This helps to avoid the trap of working hard but repeating the same mistakes.

About 40 years ago, a study was made of how American primary school pupils viewed a forthcoming test. Some viewed it as a chance to test how much they have learnt (task orientation). Others viewed it as an opportunity to compare themselves against their classmates (ego-orientation). Task orientation has since been associated with better motivation, confidence, self-regulation, academic performance and reduced anxiety. Where possible, try to foster a mindset that is focused on learning, development and improvement, and not just on outdoing someone else.

People with a growth mindset look for and value feedback more than those with a fixed mindset. It may be that those with a growth mindset see new events as an opportunity to learn new things, develop and challenge themselves; whereas, those with a fixed mindset see them as a test (and therefore judgement) against their ability.

Another characteristic of growth mindset is persistence. The ability to keep going and overcome setbacks is a key life skill. Many Olympic athletes have developed this skill, and they attribute it as an essential part of their success. Research indicates that those with a growth mindset will persist for longer.

How do you feel about mistakes? I hate making them but accept they’re just a path to learning. People with a fixed mindset equate making mistakes with having low levels of ability. This can lead to people playing it too safe for fear of looking bad. Over time, this leads to worse performance. Mistakes happen and they are inevitable. Encouraging someone to choose difficult tasks and stretch themselves, helps develop their mindset. This growth mindset could help develop a sense of courage and curiosity, both important life skills.

Take proactive steps to help yourself get through this world as well as you can. And with a growth mindset you’ll be well on your way.

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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.

Copyright © 2023 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.