Are you subverting your growth mindset?


Let's assume for a moment that you want to develop the growth mindset. On a cognitive level, you understand that having a resilient, agile and learning mindset will get you further in your career or your personal life. You understand that there are 5 Dimensions to the growth mindset - learning, bounce back, risk taking, forward and pride - and you totally agree that you need to focus on one or two Dimensions to get yourself onto the growth plane.


And then nothing happens.


Your life is the same today as it was yesterday before you decided that you want to embrace growth minded behaviours. What gives? Why is it that we are unable to flip the switch and become growth minded, since we had already decided to be growth minded? Could it be that the whole idea of the growth mindset is bogus? Certainly not! It could be that you are subconsciously subverting your growth mindset development. Here are some reasons...

1. Not convinced


Finally, we must agree to disagree at times. If the individual disagrees that the growth mindset will be an asset for him/her, we must agree to that. After all, he is living his context, not you.

It happens to all of us. We say that we want something, but deep down we are not convinced that we want it. We say that sometimes to appear smart, or to go with the flow. Many a times, it is easier to say yes, but mean no, or maybe, or I don't know. This is a typical fixed mindset behaviour in the Pride dimension - to save our fragile self-concept from external scrutiny. To the untrained listener, the "yes" is a yes. However, when someone is internally conflicted, the yes is not resounding; there is sense of tentativeness, a sense of holding back. For the trained person, he/she will know not to press ahead with the development but to circle back to uncover any concerns. This is best done privately so as not to reveal the person's reservations in front of colleagues and friends, and show him up to be conflicted and not "in" with the crowd. It is also important, when uncovering concerns, to reassure the individual that it is perfectly fine NOT to agree with the crowd. After all, we have always mentioned that growth is not always good and fixed is not always bad - it depends on context. And so, we need to understand the person's context. Does he/she actually see that there is no issue with his/her mindset? What does he/she see as the greatest contributor of the growth mindset for the future? If the person is not convinced that the growth mindset will make a difference going forward, then either we have not made a strong enough case for the growth mindset or it is true that the person's current growth mindset profile fits the needs of his/her job role. Finally, we must agree to disagree at times. If the individual disagrees that the growth mindset will be an asset for him/her, we must agree to that. After all, he is living his context, not you.

2. Not knowing the right behaviours

What if you totally buy into the need for the growth mindset. And you want to be more growth-minded. Yet without really knowing what behaviours constitute growth-mindedness for each Dimension, you will not be able to build the growth mindset. When we want change, we will need to embrace the right behaviours. For example, if you want to be more growth minded in the Pride Dimension, you might have to let go of the need to control; of the need to be right - even if deep down you "know" that you are. By embracing a behaviour of uncovering what is happening and what is not happening - and not prescribing it - we embrace more of the growth mindset for Pride. Or if we wanted to build more growth mindedness in the Forward Dimension, then we need to learn agile behaviours. This is not to say that the planned approach is irrelevant; but it may not be appropriate in a changing, uncertain environment. Finally, if you wanted to be more growth minded in Bounce Back, you might need to develop a supporting network of colleagues and friends, and rely on them to get you up when you fall. If you are unaware of what behaviours will build the growth mindset, then it stands to reason that you might not be able to develop the growth mindset.


3. Not adopting the behaviours


"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."

Then there is adopting the behaviours. "Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do." This is a quotation by Goethe. Ultimately, we need to adopt the behaviours if we want to be growth minded. Yet, this is not just a one-time, or limited-time, thing. Some behaviours take a life-time to master. For example, the behaviour of holding your tongue and not interjecting while listening to others, and trying to understand what is happening, can take years to master. Trying to silence our inner-critic can be difficult for some, especially those who are impatient for results. As such, we will need to work to be more patient so that we can work to silent the inner-critic. You will realise that some behaviours are multi-layered, and it takes one to discern which is the key behaviour to work on, and then adopt that before focusing on the others. There is a requirement, therefore, of unlearning, learning and re-learning. As Alvin Toffler said, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."


4. Psychological resistance


it is the person's subjective interpretation of an objective event, that creates such negative self-talk.

The last reason is more deep-seated as it deals with an individual's psyche, about the way a person deals with the different behaviours. For example, as a result of physical and mental abuse in the family, a mother might adopt a very protective stance with respect to her children. This forms a certain mindset in the person that is very difficult to dislodge because it is deeply rooted in her. In another example, if a man had been badly cheated by a friend when they came together to start a business, might make him distrust any person who has a business idea, irrespective of the value of the new business idea. To an outsider, such thinking, such behaviours, are illogical. Yet to the individual, it is very real; and it is a defence mechanism in them to prevent a similar occurrence. However, such a behaviour can be destructive, without the person really knowing it. According to psychologist Aaron Beck, who founded the psychological therapy called cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), it is the person's subjective interpretation of an objective event, that creates such negative self-talk. (All business is bad; or all people are out to harm my children!) According to Beck, we can learn to observe our negative self-talk and change our maladaptive behaviours; and that is the basis of CBT. Indeed, if we can change a person's negative perception of the objective event, we can also get that person to be ready to adopt growth behaviours! Now, not everyone knows how to apply CBT, and sometimes a little knowledge is more dangerous than no knowledge at all. It is for this reason, that I would not recommend a coach or a mentor to use CBT if they do not have adequate knowledge or skill in this area. Leave that to the professionals.



So, where are you now in the scheme of things? Are you just unconvinced that the growth mindset will work for you? Or is it that you don't know what behaviours you need to adopt? Or perhaps you know what to adopt but don't want to? Or could it be something deep down in your psyche that prevents you from being growth minded? Sometimes it is a combination of all of these that impacts a person.


it does take awareness, understanding, willingness and determination.

So does that mean it is difficult adopting the growth mindset? Well, no. But it does take awareness, understanding, willingness and determination. And that is why it pays dividends to work with someone who can help you. Be it a learned friend, a professional coach or a therapist, your best bet at developing the growth mindset is with some help. Let us know if you need such help. We have the people for you.


Here's to your continued development!



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