Growth mindset is a term coined by Carol Dweck in her research wherein a person believes that his qualities, skills, and knowledge can be developed through his efforts. A person with the growth mindset loves taking on challenges, and is not afraid to be horrible at what he does, especially if it means learning new things. This trait of not being afraid to fail is what allows a person to expand his skill set and comfort zone. A person with a fixed mindset, on the other hand, believes that he is born with his skills and knowledge. It means that if he’s good or bad at something, then that’s it. He doesn’t like to try new things because he is afraid to suck at it. Similarly, he doesn’t like challenges because he believes that 1.) if he’s having a hard time now, he will always have a hard time dealing with certain challenges, and 2.) putting in effort means he’s not a genius. And oh, how he hates to be seen as “not good”, so he proves himself again and again. People can have a mix of fixed and growth mindsets on different areas of their life, but one mindset is usually more dominant than the other.
Looking back, I realised that I’ve had the fixed mindset for most of my life, up until maybe 5 years ago. I did well back in school, so I thought I was set for life. Little did I know that there were tons of people that are much more brilliant than me. I also stuck to what I knew I was good at, and avoided situations where I could look ridiculous. This applied even to the smallest things – like trying out a game at a festival. Yes, I didn’t want to try games because I was afraid people would think I was dumb for not winning a prize. I also didn’t do sports because I did not have the skill.
I only developed my growth mindset – accidentally – when I had a group of work friends that was not afraid to go and try new stuff. They would join quiz nights, and try all the games and contests that they could. And they had FUN doing it too, even if they didn’t win. It didn’t matter if we all looked ridiculous, we just had fun – and that was quite eye-opening for me. It also helps that the Mister is quite excited and curious to at least try different stuff too – whether it’s trying a different cuisine, or trying new activities like the luge or snowboarding. Interestingly, my office is also incorporating the growth mindset into its work values.
I realised that not everyone is observing me, hoping to find fault, as I thought they would. And if I actually suck at something, so what? What’s the worst that could happen if I fail? The knowledge and experience gained after doing something out of your comfort zone is much more important. And while it is true that I am still reluctant to do different things, at the very least, I am willing to give it a go. 👍