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July 27, 2022

What is a Growth Mindset?

You’ve probably heard lots inspirational sayings about failure and success. The corporate world is full of them, and leaders often use quotes by great thinkers to keep teams motivated amidst obstacles.

Many of those expressions are more than just words — They come from genuine experiences. And what do lots of inspirational sayings about overcoming challenges have in common? They’re based on a way of thinking called “growth mindset.”

Ok, so what is a growth mindset?

A growth mindset is about believing that your abilities can develop over time, rather than seeing them as fixed at birth and unchangeable. It’s about knowing that you can always improve your skills, get better at any activity, or learn something new.

When you embody a growth mindset, you see experiences – and even failures – as important for continued learning and development. Instead of viewing mistakes or feedback as bad, you see them as useful for growth and evolution. It’s the perspective that every experience matters, whether you revel in success or feel the sting of defeat.

Imagine how different your life could be with a growth mindset. Instead of letting challenges keep you down and prevent you from reaching your full potential, you use them as fuel!

People with growth mindsets tend to be the most successful.


It’s because they’re less susceptible to getting stuck in limiting beliefs, self-criticism, or fear. Most thrive on new opportunities and challenges, taking every chance to reach their next level of success.

Why does having a growth mindset matter to leaders?

You might be thinking: Can internal mindsets really make that much of a difference for leaders? Isn’t leadership about external actions and interactions?

Well, yes. But how you act in a given situation is always linked to how you’re thinking about that situation. Shifting your thinking can result in different actions and results. And as the team leader, you really set the tone. The way you act and communicate impacts team morale and performance. Many experts think a growth mindset is the key to running a forward-thinking company and staying agile in an unpredictable work environment.

Who coined the term “growth mindset”?

You could probably argue that having a growth mindset isn’t a completely new concept. Great leaders from ancient times likely adopted similar ways of thinking. But it wasn’t until about two decades ago that the actual term was coined.

Dr. Carol Dweck, an American psychologist and professor at Stanford University, devised the term after doing research about what separates successful school students from less successful ones.

In particular, Dweck and her research team explored how experiences of challenge and failure affect the overall success of students. She detailed her findings in multiple publications, most notably in her trademark book titled “Mindset.”

Characteristics of Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset

One aspect of Dweck’s research involves exploring the distinction between a “growth mindset” and a “fixed mindset.”

With a fixed mindset, you believe that your abilities and talents are inherent and unchangeable. You’re either born with certain skills or not. As a result, there’s no point in trying to learn new things or develop more skills.

It’s a limiting way to look at yourself, and it’s more common than most realize. According to Dweck, it stems from childhood and ultimately shapes everything you do moving forward.

Think about it this way:

  • Why have goals if you think there’s no possibility of learning new skills or getting better at what you do?
  • Why keep trying at something if you experience failure as a confirmation that you’re not good enough and never will be?
  • Why try something new or stretch yourself if it might reveal that you can’t cut it?


Your entire focus can become about playing it safe to avoid risks and opportunities. This fixed mindset can really impact a leader’s confidence, career trajectory, and influence. And it can trickle down to their team as well.

It all sounds pretty harmful, right? Yet, many people are unknowingly going through life with a fixed mindset.

"Love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning."
Carol Dweck

Things You Might Think or Say in a Growth Mindset

Having a growth mindset can make a world of difference. It turns you into a better leader, sets you up for continued growth, shifts your perspective, and helps you view failures as opportunities rather than hindrances. This way of thinking could lead you to your next level of success! Who doesn’t want that?

But what does it actually sound like?

Instead of thoughts like “I can’t,” “I’m not,” or “what’s the point?,” having a growth mindset means your thoughts and words are focused on phrases like:

  • “If I work at it, I’ll make progress”
  • “I can figure this out.”
  • “I can get better at this.”
  • “I try new things.”
  • “I appreciate constructive criticism.”
  • “I learn from mistakes.”
  • “Success doesn’t define me.”
  • “Patience and persistence pay off.”

  • “I’m going to try a different approach.”
  • “My focus is on the bigger picture.”
  • “I strive for progress, not perfection.”
  • “What can I do differently next time?”
  • “I haven’t figured it out, yet.”
  • “It’s not too late to learn something new.”
  • “The success of others is inspiring.”
  • “External approval doesn’t define me.”

Benefits of a Growth Mindset

Still not convinced that adopting a growth mindset is worth it? Maybe these benefits will hit home:

Boosted Confidence

In our world today, it feels pretty easy to get discouraged when we face criticism or failure, right? That’s why it’s even more important to cultivate a mindset that’ll help us detach from external approval or perfectionism.

A growth mindset enables you to focus on the bigger-picture journey of improving your skills over time rather than seeking immediate affirmation or success. It helps you recognize your strengths and see areas of improvement as opportunities. It normalizes mistakes, and it reframes “I just not enough” to “I’m capable and I’m still growing.”

All of this does wonders for your self-confidence, allowing you to reclaim that spark and motivation to achieve great things!

Acceptance of Past Outcomes

Admit it: You’ve let yourself ruminate about past experiences and missteps, analyzing what might have been.

We’re all guilty of that at some point. But here’s the thing: Our previous experiences make us who we are today, and any “failures” teach us important lessons.

A growth mindset tells us to not only accept outcomes as they are, but to embrace them with the perspective that they’re critical for continued improvement. This can help you keep moving into the future without getting paralyzed by the past. You take what you need from experiences, with gratitude, and then keep going forward.

An Embrace of New Challenges

The only way to keep growing is to continue to stretch yourself. You can’t expect to improve your skills if you avoid uncomfortable situations that give you the chance to practice new abilities.

With a growth mindset, you’ll start seeing challenges and discomfort as good! You know that even if you fail, you’re getting something valuable out of the experience. This’ll help you embrace opportunities to push outside your comfort zone with increased resolve and courage.

A Greater Openness to Feedback

Receiving critical feedback can feel vulnerable. Your initial instinct might be to reject it and defend yourself. That response comes from a fixed mindset, which says “Don’t point out a mistake because that confirms I’m not capable enough and might never be.”

Do you see how a fixed mindset prevents you from accepting feedback and learning from it? This can then weaken your working relationships and stall your career.

Instead, what if you were able to encourage more feedback? What if you could truly hear and consider criticism in a neutral way, without being triggered? What if you could take what’s useful from it and incorporate that into your daily behavior? This is what’s possible with a growth mindset. And it could make a big difference in whether you truly develop as a person and leader.


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