According to Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, the notion that some people are born to succeed and others not is wholly misgiven. When we adopt a growth mindset, she argues, obstacles which at first had seemed insurmountable suddenly become less so. The realization that we are not helpless, but capable of achieving realistic goals if we were just to set our minds to them, is a powerful one.
Studies suggest that the growth mindset acts as a counter to the possibly more instinctive fight-or-flight response to problems, helping us to consider social difficulties as being challenges as opposed to fixed barriers. When we embrace the belief that people really do have the potential to change, we free ourselves up to actually do it.
Fostering a Growth Mindset
Although there is a certain amount of controversy over the misapplication of this field of research in schools, studies increasingly suggest that fostering a growth mindset helps students with the process of navigating social challenges. Indeed it is known that even a belief in the mere possibility of change has a positive effect on our thinking, leaving us better placed to overcome anxiety and a sense of failure. A growth mindset can also enable us to empathize more, thereby encouraging others to approach their goals in the same positive spirit.
It must be acknowledged that accessing a growth mindset is not always quite as simple as it might sound. Feeling criticized, attacked or threatened can place us onto the defensive and make it more difficult for us to believe in ourselves, and in our capacity for change. Doubt and insecurity are natural human emotions to be overcome along the way. Nevertheless if we can work on establishing, and maintaining, a growth mindset then our potential for success is significantly enhanced.