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6 surprising things about the growth mindset that you probably didn't know!

6 surprising things about the growth mindset

We have spoken a fair bit about the growth mindset on this site, and in today's article, I want to share with you 6 things that you probably didn't know about it. As you know, the growth mindset was discovered by Dr Carol Dweck when she researched how people grappled with failure. She started by seeing how children reacted to a series of increasingly difficult puzzles. She found out that there are two types of children - those who were energised by increased difficulty, and those who gave up. This led to further research into how the two mindsets were formed - and these she called the growth mindset and the fixed mindset. What Dweck further uncovered was that these mindsets are equally present in adults as they are in children, and by understanding their mindset, we can also predict if they were more likely to succeed or fail in the face of uncertainty.

Dweck's Questions

Let's see if you had a growth mindset or not. I repeat Dweck's questions here for you.

Read each statement and decide if you mostly agree, or mostly disagree, with it:

1. Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you cannot change very much.

2. You can learn new things, but you cannot really change how intelligent you are.

3. No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it quite a bit.

4. You can always substantially change how intelligent you are.

You can also substitute the word intelligence for "business skills", "artistic talent" etc, and still have a valid result.

Now, Questions 1 and 2 are the fixed mindset questions, and Questions 3 and 4 are the growth mindset ones. So, how did you do?

Now, let's see how this is applied to personal qualities. Read the following statements and see if you mostly agree, or mostly disagree, with them:

1. You are a certain kind of person and there is not much that can be done to really change that

2. No matter what kind of person you are, you can always change substantially

3. You can do things differently, but the important parts of who you are really can't change

4. You can always change basic things about the kind of person you are

Questions 1 and 3 are the fixed mindset questions, and Questions 2 and 4 are the growth mindset. So, are you a fixed or growth mindset person in this case?

So here's the first of the surprises...

1. You can have separate mindsets

Now, did you get the same results for both sets of questions? It can actually be that both differ. The first set deals with intelligence and talent, things that require mental ability. The second set addresses your personality, and how you react to situations. So, they deal with different issues, and hence can differ. This may come as a surprise to some of you because we normally associate a person who has a fixed mindset to ALWAYS have a fixed mindset in all situations. But the fact is that he can have fixed mindset about personality, and a growth mindset about intelligence.

2. You can have a gradual fixed mindset

Pope St John Paul II wrote about the Law of Gradualness. In it he mentions that the human being "knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by different stages of growth." In other words, you cannot judge the morality of a two-year old the same way as you can judge that of a twenty-year old. This law of gradualness can also be applied to the fixed mindset. One can initially hold a growth mindset about an idea, but this can grow into a fixed mindset when it gradually becomes challenging. For example, a leader can hold that his charges learn by doing. And he largely supports this until his charges fail more and more often, and the leader becomes less and less tolerant of failure. Soon, he becomes a tyrant, and starts micromanaging his people. This is the gradualness of the fixed mindset setting in.

3. You may have the traits but not the mindset

As you may know, we currently possess the only traits-based growth mindset assessment in the world. We built it by identifying the behaviours of growth mindset people, categorising them into five main dimensions, and then identified the traits for those dimensions. Next, we tested it by asking participants to answer Dweck's questions to determine their growth mindedness. Then we asked the participants to do the traits assessment, and we compared the two results. Of course, it is not an apples-for-apples comparison, since the traits-based assessment is so much more precise, and dives deeper into the behavioural traits of the growth mindset. But what we found is that a person who has a fixed mindset via Dweck's questions, may have growth mindset traits. Yet, he is still considered, by his own admission, to be fixed. There are two possible reasons for this: (1) Dweck's questions are not granular enough to distinguish between graduations of mindset, or (2) some traits are more latent than others. As it turns out, it is both. Which brings us to the next surprising thing...

4. You probably have latent growth mindset traits

If you have taken our growth mindset assessment, you will notice that you are scored for all five dimensions separately; and each dimension is a trait-set. You may score marginal growth mindedness in some traits, and significant growth mindedness in others, and yet be deemed to be fixed based on Dweck's questions. This means that there are latent traits, and stronger ones. This explains the gradualness of the fixed mindset. When the situation is not sufficiently trying, your stronger fixed traits may not have been triggered, and your latent growth traits prop up thinking. But, when push comes to shove, your fixed traits will take over, and you resort to being your fixed mindset self. This explains Thomas Edison's fixed mindedness. You may know Edison to be the Wizard of Menlo Park, and to have invented so many important things and lighted up the world, one would not expect that he had a fixed mindset streak. But read this post, The Wizard Had a Fixed Mindset Too, and you will see how even a growth thinker like him can become a fixed mindset tyrant.

5. There is a primacy of traits

From the above discussion, you will come to realise that there are some traits that impact on other traits, and there are those that are impacted upon. We will not say which trait impacts on which ones because it might prejudice those of you who have not yet done the assessment, but are intending to shortly. But suffice it to say that there is a primacy of traits, and this primacy can upend a person's overall growth mindedness. In other words, because of one or two traits that are less growth minded than others, you would turn out to be more of a fixed minded person than a growth.

6. You can develop your traits

Well, this last one you actually know. But I really wanted to put this in the list because after all that had been said, it is really important to acknowledge the impact that shifting one's mindset has on changing one's traits. You must of course know what to focus on, how to shift your mindset, and how to maintain that shift. This is where the traits assessment comes in. But that is only the beginning. There are actions and exercises that you can take to make that shift from fixed to growth more permanent. But as with any behavioural development, it will take time. But I guarantee you that it is time well spent!

Take the assessment

After having said so much about the assessment, if you have not already done it, why not see for yourself what your growth mindset traits are, and which is the primary trait, and which are the secondary traits, that build the growth mindset? Just click on the link below and it will take you to sign up for the assessment for FREE! Try it out for yourself, and in my next article, I will talk about some of the tricks you can adopt to advance your growth mindset development.

And share it with your friends

Why not share this post with all your friends, and get them to do the assessment too? Then come together, share with one another, and have a good laugh. For all you know, you may be able to find key partners to your next business or social endeavour through this! Heck, you may even find your life partner! Just share this with post with all your friends!

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