Cultivate a Growth Mindset

July 2022 |

Six ways to set yourself up for success … and happiness.

When you are presented with a challenge or conflict in your life, which set of thoughts tends to run through your mind:
A. Why doesn’t anything work for me? What’s wrong with them? Why bother?
B. What are the facts? What is the other person feeling? What are my goals?

The way you answer probably depends on your general “mindset”—the mental framework that sets the tone for your thoughts, beliefs and expectations. Psychologists note that most people navigate life with one of two mindsets. Carol Dweck coined the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset”; Marilee Adams calls them “judger mindset” and “learner mindset.” In the examples above, “A” represents a fixed or judger mindset, and “B” a growth or learner mindset.

Developing a growth mindset is one of the most critical things we can do to set ourselves up for personal and professional success, says Ellen Lowery, DVM, PhD, MBA, clinical professor and director of Purdue University Veterinary Hospital.

Set in Their Ways

People with a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence and abilities are static once they reach full potential. These individuals tend to avoid challenges, give up easily, blame others, ignore feedback, feel threatened by the success of those around them, and see themselves as victims.

People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, believe that their intelligence and abilities can improve over time. These individuals tend to embrace challenges, persevere in the face of setbacks, question their own accountability, see feedback as an opportunity for growth, support others’ successes, and apply lessons learned from personal failures to future decisions.

“Our mindset drives our perceptions and our responses,” says Lowery. “A growth mindset is about believing in yourself and your ability to succeed.”

Develop a Growth Mindset

Choosing to change how we view and react to life’s events can have a profound impact on our mindset and ultimately on our happiness. Lowery offers these six tips to make the switch:

1. Practice deliberately. The fixed mindset is stubborn, and it’s difficult to face unpleasant or hurtful things in your life. “Acknowledge that right up front,” Lowery advises. “Many of us would rather focus on other people than allow ourselves the gift of focusing on ourselves and cultivating a growth mindset.”

2. Know your triggers. Knowing the things that tend to create an immediate reaction in you is part of cultivating a growth mindset. “At the end of the day, developing that growth mindset helps us manage our emotions so our emotions don’t manage us,” says Lowery.

3. Pause, reflect, reframe. When something negative or stressful occurs, take a moment to reframe the challenge. Focus on something positive about the situation. Consider how you can address the issue and what you can learn from it.

4. Let go of the negative. “Instead of running from failures and giving up in the face of setbacks, take advantage of them by reviewing them, identifying what did not work, and then devising a plan to correct your mistakes,” says Lowery.

5. Fail forward. We all make mistakes, but those with a growth mindset will look at those mistakes as growth opportunities. “You have the power to choose how you react to those failures,” says Lowery. “What can you learn from the experience? How can you change? How can you continue to grow?”

6. Adopt positive behaviors. Getting more sleep, exercising, meditating and pursuing hobbies are just a few examples of practices that can help mold our minds into having a growth mindset. If you’re feeling unmotivated, try telling yourself “I want to” rather than “I have to,” Lowery suggests.