The way you perceive yourself and your abilities, your mindset, is not only the key to success but growth as an individual.

Opening yourself up to different ways to improve, essentially opening up the possibility of changing your mindset, may be the key to getting yourself over a longstanding hurdle you have been facing in your life, either at home or at work.

A positive mindset may be why those with less talent are progressing up the corporate ladder quicker than yourself. What they lack in raw talent they make up for in confidence.

We at Engage believe that regardless of natural talent, we can develop our abilities through hard work, what is known as a “growth mindset.”

A growth mindset, as opposed to a “fixed mindset,” which is the belief that ability we are born with is ingrained within us permanently, proposes that we are in charge of our own destiny; you are in control of your own ability, it is up to you to decide whether to learn and improve, or accept things as they are.

A good example of how powerful a growth mindset can be is in the research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1998.

Researchers at Columbia University, New York, studied how different types of praise affected students.

Students aged 9-12 were asked to complete a problem-solving game, with all being told they got answered 80% of the questions correctly. Some were praised for their natural talent while others were praised for the hard work they put into the task.

The change in praise had radical consequences.

The students whose intelligence (raw talent) was praised were less likely to persist on tasks than those praised for their effort. The children praised for their intelligence also said they enjoyed completing the task less than those praised for their effort.

The children praised for their intelligence also performed worse in future tasks, while the students praised for their effort actually performed better in future tasks.

This study indicates that it is more important to praise the process rather than raw talent or ability; a fixed mindset will be most active when we are told how well we have done.

Conversely, a growth mindset, is most active when we are being told how we can improve; when we ask ourselves ‘what can I do better next time,’ rather than ‘How did I do?,’ we open up the possibility to change, to advance.

Changing our mindset also affects how we deal with setbacks.

“A setback is never a bad experience, just another one of life’s lessons.”
– Richard Branson

For someone with a fixed mindset, a setback can be demoralising; it damages their self-belief in their own abilities.

This was reflected in the above study. The children praised for their intelligence were less likely to persist on tasks than the children who had been praised for their effort.

The children praised for their effort were more likely to continue with a difficult task, exhibiting a growth mindset. When we exhibit a growth mindset, we view setbacks as an opportunity to grow, to learn. We put more effort to overcome setbacks.

The good news is that you can change your mindset.

Neuroscientists have discovered that our brain is actually similar to plastic, in that it can be reshaped over time, to form new neural pathways, we call this tendency neuroplasticity.

Neural pathways are developed by thinking or doing certain things, with these things becoming hard-wired into our brains as habits the more we do them, forming defined ‘routes’ in our brain.

Even if we are currently entrenched in a fixed mindset, we can still develop a growth mindset.

The first step is to realise that change is needed. Once you accept change is required to grow, you can begin training your brain in a desired new skill.  

There are three key things we can do to develop a growth mindset:

  1. We need to be committed to developing a growth mindset; you need to want it. A growth mindset is supported by science; we have seen the impact it can have on an individual’s progression path.
  2. We can learn and teach others about how to develop and improve their abilities via adopting a growth mindset. Research shows that people who feel in control tend to perform better: a virtuous cycle.
  3. Be aware of a fixed mindset voice. We all hear that critical, negative voice within us, telling we cannot achieve something. Reply to that with a growth mindset; tell yourself you can learn, you can achieve.

Cultivating and nurturing a growth mindset may hold the key to helping you reach your true potential. Sign up for a virtual coaching session with Engage to learn more about how to  change your mindset and improve your career.