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How to develop a growth mindset in yourself: 10 key steps

Mindset matters.

How you see the world and yourself can be a big part of what shapes your destiny.

Mindset matters for money:

It matters for love

It matters for health

And it matters for spirituality.

And when it comes to choosing and committing to your mindset there’s a path in the road where you have to decide which direction to go:

I’m talking about fixed vs growth mindset.

What is fixed vs growth mindset?

Fixed vs growth mindset is a concept about whether we see ourselves and our situation as fluid and possible of improving or believe, fundamentally, that we’re bound by genetics, circumstances, and outer reasons to accept how things are.

It comes out of research by Carol Dweck at the University of Stanford, who has carried out innovative studies showing how our mindset heavily influences “what we want and whether we succeed in getting it.”

Understanding fixed vs growth mindset will help you achieve goals, improve yourself, and build a better life.

The same situation can look completely different for someone with a fixed mindset than it does for someone with a growth mindset.

The good news is that knowing where you’re coming from lets you decide to build up the optimal mindset for excellence.

Fixed vs growth mindset

Dweck’s research shows two primary mindsets: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

These aren’t just important because of how “cheery” they make you or whether you’re fun to be around.

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They are actually primary drivers of your motivation and worldview, according to Dweck.

In other words, these mindsets can be the difference between a shitty life and a great life.

According to Dweck, having a fixed mindset is:

“Believing that your qualities are carved in stone —the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you only have a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look deficient in these most basic characteristics.”

While Dweck says a growth mindset:

“In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and exercise.”

It’s not always black-and-white, obviously. And all of us may sometimes trend more in one direction or another.

But at a fundamental level it is true:

You’re either growing and learning.

Or you’re standing still and frozen in place by limiting beliefs.

As mindset coach Suzie Flynn puts it:

“People with a fixed mindset believe they are born with their abilities which are fixed and unchangeable, creating a glass ceiling for their success.

“People with a growth mindset believe their abilities can be developed and strengthened over time through hard work and commitment.”

Do you have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?

Finding out if you have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset is fairly straightforward.

It’s a matter of looking at some of your core guiding beliefs, especially when presented with challenges in life.

People who have a fixed mindset:

  • run away from challenges because they don’t feel good enough
  • often quit when the going gets tough
  • seek reward for accomplishments and external validation
  • take rejection personally and fit it into a story of failure and limitation
  • consider themselves realists and look at dreaming big as childish
  • believe they are defined by their genes, family and environmental factors outside their control

People with a growth mindset:

  • rise up to meet challenges and keep trying even when they feel overwhelmed
  • often try even harder when the going gets tough
  • don’t seek out rewards or external validation and applause
  • don’t take rejection personally and cultivate a personal story of opportunity and growth
  • consider themselves optimists and look at dreaming big as the only way to live
  • believe their heart and spirit can blaze a trail into the future that isn’t limited by genes, family or life situations

Many of us go through periods of having a growth mindset but tend to fall back into a fixed mindset.

I know that in my case I’ve embraced many aspects of a growth mindset but then have certain issues and difficulties that cause me to fall back into a fixed mindset.

“Well yes, I had great progress on a personal and career level, but at the end of the day I’m limited by my anxiety,” is a common thing that I often fall back into.

The truth about fixed vs growth mindset is that it’s always shifting around, and often we fall back on fixed mindset to reassure us that failures and hard situations are a reason to give up or go back to what we’re used to and turn on the TV and open the bag of chips.

But:

The good news is…

You can change, and neuroplasticity is a real thing.

So, here we go!

How to switch to a growth mindset

“I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

– Michael Jordan

Growth mindsets don’t grow on trees.

They’re made from the ground up. And just like anyone else you have that power within you to embrace a growth mindset and to enjoy its massive benefits.

Starting to put a growth mindset into action is a crazy experience.

It’s more than “being positive.” In fact, sometimes a growth mindset isn’t even about that: it’s more about work, purpose and drive.

As Dweck says:

“It’s not just that some people happen to recognize the value of challenging themselves and the importance of effort. Our research has shown that this comes directly from the growth mindset. When we teach people the growth mindset, with its focus on development, these ideas about challenge and effort follow. . . .

“As you begin to understand the fixed and growth mindsets, you will see exactly how one thing leads to another—how a belief that your qualities are carved in stone leads to a host of thoughts and actions, and how a belief that your qualities can be cultivated leads to a host of different thoughts and actions, taking you down an entirely different road.”

This is the key! You don’t need to have amazing genius or talent to accomplish great things. You just need to work hard and hone a growth mindset.

10 steps to cultivate a growth mindset

For that reason, I’ve put together this list of guidelines for how to cultivate a growth mindset.

Do these and I can promise you that you will start noticing real differences in only a matter of weeks.

1. Accept your weak spots

There are some areas where you are weak. Same with me.

Same with everyone. 

This isn’t always a metaphorical or inner thing either. You might literally be short, or have a speech disability.

You could have eyesight problems or difficulty paying attention because of neurological factors.

These aren’t your fault, but you need to accept them.

Sometimes there may be ways we can improve our weaknesses, other times they are unchangeable.

In either case, you need to accept where you’re “behind” others and go from there.

A growth mindset is never in denial or shame: it owns up to the reality head-on.

2. Find your flow

Another great step for switching to a growth mindset is to find your passion and follow it.

There are many mistakes people make when trying to enter the flow state, but if you do it the right way you can accomplish incredible things.

Find your own unique flow and challenge yourself.

Don’t try to live someone else’s life or force a square peg into a round hole. Be you, and find the place and activity that lets you excel and share your gifts with the world.

You’ll begin to see possibilities where you once saw only blank walls.

You’ll start growing.

3. Get excited by challenges

Challenges – whether it’s huge tests or an injury – can bring even the best of us down.

What the hell am I supposed to do now? you think as you face an anxiety-inducing challenge or setback.

In order to develop a growth mindset, however, you need to start training yourself to see challenges as a good thing.

Even something like an injury could be a time you can work on your inner mental game as you prepare to go back to physical training for a sport or activity.

Even something like an ended relationship could be a chance to understand yourself more and find true love and intimacy that will be meaningful and last.

I also highly recommend Ideapod’s bestselling eBook, Why Taking Responsibility is Key to Being the Best You. We help you develop a new mindset around the challenges you face in life. Check it out here.

4. Stop seeking outside approval

It’s easy, especially in our Like-obsessed society, to get hung up on what other people think.

Especially if you’re trying to be attractive to someone or get the attention of an employer, a love interest, or a friend.

Do they like me? 

This approval-seeking mentality is weak. It distracts you from your goals and puts your power outside you.

You need to do everything you can to drop it.

Sure, it is nice to get a “good job!” sometimes and see that others appreciate you and you’re making a difference in their lives.

And it is important to care if others tell you that what you’re doing is harming or negatively impacting them.

But you can’t base your life on what others think or their approval.

So go for the gold and be your own cheerleader.

5. Don’t focus on the results, focus on the process

Results are cool unless they’re the results of a medical test showing you have a disease.

Those suck.

But results as in positive results kick ass!

The problem is if you focus on results you start slipping up in the day-to-day and begin to become too hungry for an end-goal.

You need to craft your skills on the journey instead of salivating over the destination.

It can be great to have a goal, but once you have it you need to commit to it and set out on the journey, making every day and small step count.

As Kenny Rogers sings in The Gambler: “there’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.”

6. Take action

As bestselling author James Clear writes, the best way to change to a growth mindset is to take action.

“In my experience, the only way I know to change the type of person that you believe that you are — to build a new and better identity for yourself — is to do so with small, repeated actions.”

I can tell you:

He’s right.

Talk only goes so far.

To truly change your mindset you need to take action, no matter how small.

Find somewhere you can start and then just do it. 

7. Use failure as rocket fuel for your dreams

Failure happens. It happens a lot, even to people like Michael Jordan as you could see in the quote above.

The difference between a “winner” and a “loser” is what they do about failure.

Winners use failure as rocket fuel for their dreams.

Losers use failure as an excuse.

It’s absolutely that simple.

And a growth mindset is a mindset for winners.

Courtney Ackerman tackles fixed vs growth mindset as well, and explains exactly how to shift when she notes that you should:

“View failure in a different light: see failure as an opportunity to learn from your experiences and apply what you have learned next time around.”

8. Positive self-talk is key

Positive self-talk matters. It matters a lot. 

The key, like I said above, is taking action based on self-talk and then reinforcing positive action with self-talk.

When I say self-talk I don’t really mean all “positive” or wishy-washy stuff. What I mean is building an inner script of purpose and awareness. 

Build an inner script that puts you as the hero of your own story.

An inner script that makes you capable and action-oriented.

An inner script in which you are not a victim of life, but an active participant.

Then go out and make it come true.

9. Practice extreme ownership

As former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink explains in his book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win, taking responsibility for yourself and your situation is necessary in order to effective and successful at life and in crisis situations.

No matter whose fault something is in a situation you must take “ownership” of it and put the mission first.

Teamwork and simple, actionable plans are key as is mindset.

The point is that a growth mindset sees situations as something to work with others to solve and doesn’t ever look outside to blame, limit, or give up.

No excuses, just ownership.

Own the situation and own your decisions. There’s no place for victimhood in the growth mindset.

10. Make life easier for other people

A big part of having a growth mindset is looking for and creating win-win situations.

Often those with a fixed mindset will see the world, business, and love as a zero-sum game: a limited amount of resources to go around.

“If I don’t get my piece of the pie someone else will and I’ll get nothing.”

This is a common belief particularly in very materialistic, capitalist societies. However, a growth mindset doesn’t see the world as a zero-sum equation.

It seeks out and makes situations where you can make others’ lives easier and profit from it. The growth mindset notices improvements, partnerships, and collaborations that can happen and make life better for everyone.

There’s a reason that so many people who are wealthy have a growth mindset:

They notice opportunities and possibilities where other people don’t notice anything.

11. Look at life as a learning experience

As much as life can suck, it is also full of disappointments that can be seen as learning experiences.

With a growth mindset, you take the setbacks of life and digest them with determination.

You see what you can learn from something that didn’t go well.

As Flynn writes:

“Those with a growth mindset have a hunger for learning and a desire to work hard to get results…With a growth mindset, people see failure as feedback and challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow.”

Even if a situation or relationship went sour through no fault of your own you sit quietly and think about the lessons.

And more or less constantly the lesson is: life is going to have some pain, but you need to keep moving forward and keep your power in yourself, not dependent on the outside.

12. It’s the journey, not the destination

Remember, it’s about the journey, not the destination.

The growth mindset like I wrote above does not get hung up on end goals.

The growth mindset is absolutely purpose-driven, but it’s not purpose-fixated. 

The difference is that someone with a growth mindset has a strong purpose, but they’re not seeking that perfect “payoff” or end goal when they can put their feet up and say everything is great.

Whether it’s their health, relationships, or work they are not craving or expecting some plateau at which the work is over and it’s all coasting.

In fact, many people with a growth mindset go on to accomplish amazing things even after they retire, because all that free time and relaxation is just a bit much!

Wouldn’t you agree?

13. Give up on finding the “perfect partner”

One of the best things about a growth mindset is that you stop demanding so much.

And, ironically, it means you often get more.

Because you see many things as possibilities instead of limited, negative situations, you end up finding many diamonds where others see coal.

This includes in relationships, where a growth mindset will show you how you don’t need to find “perfect” but can grow together with someone.

You aren’t desperately seeking your “other half” because you’re now whole and you want to share that wholeness with someone else if it happens (if not, no problem at all).

As Dweck’s research revealed:

“Those with a fixed mindset believed their ideal mate would put them on a pedestal and make them feel perfect, like ‘the god of a one-person religion,’ whereas those with the growth mindset preferred a partner who would recognize their faults and lovingly help improve them, someone who would encourage them to learn new things and become a better person. The fixed mindset, it turns out, is at the root of many of our most toxic cultural myths about ‘true love.'”

14. Be boosted by the success of others, not deflated by it

When we’re in a fixed mindset we see the world as a limited place full of competition and conquest.

As I said above, we scramble for our piece of the pie and feel anxious when someone else gets theirs.

Damn, that guy just got a great job. Now there’s one less great job for me. 

The growth mindset works the exact opposite way. A growth mindset gets a morale boost from the success of others.

Wow, that guy just landed a great job. I wonder if he knows about some related jobs that are opening up?

A growth mindset knows 100% that you can improve and take action to change things. It never sits and complains: it pushes you to keep working and innovating.

As Flynn notes:

“Recognize that others that have created success are just like you – average, everyday ordinary people who knew what they wanted and went after it. Everybody has potential, it’s not just reserved for the special few. Remember, if they can do it, so can you!”

If you’re looking for more inspiration and tips on the growth mindset I recommend checking out these growth mindset quotes.

Written by Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer. His upcoming book Cultworld will be out later this year. Follow him on Twitter @paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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