Pride makes or breaks the growth mindset


Picture credit: Naushil Ansari from Pexels


We have come to the fifth - and final - dimension of the growth mindset. This dimension is different from the rest because it has an inverse relationship to growth, in so far as the common understanding of Pride is concerned. Hence, this takes a little bit more explaining.


In the normal vernacular, pride means a person is arrogant, haughty or filled with disdain. Yet, pride could also mean to delight in something - where you put in your best work. But having said that, when we say someone is prideful, it usually means the former. So, in the normal scheme of things, this seems to be a negative Dimension.


Except that it isn't.


All our Dimensions are neither positive nor negative; they just are. In the case of Pride, someone who is more fixed in this Dimension is one who is fixated on the past; one who views his past successes as a badge of honour and who does not deviate from processes that worked in the past. They are ones who can be heard saying, "I have done this many times before, so just follow my instructions." Sometimes, they do this not because they are arrogant, but because it is expedient. Of course, sometimes, this can be due to overconfidence, even bordering on hubris.


All our Dimensions are neither positive nor negative; they just are.

Those who are more growth in this Dimension may have similar experiences and knowledge but are not so quick to pronounce the way forward. They are mindful that there are differences between the past and the present, and rather than being prescriptive, they adopt a Learning approach to uncovering what still works and what needs to be developed. They understand that even young, relatively inexperienced colleagues may have a good perspective and knowledge in the situation. They also suspend judgement on a situation to allow new information to come into their consideration. This allows them to uncover what really is happening and then moderate their response.


Is the growth mindset good, and fixed bad?

It therefore seems to suggest that the growth mindset in this Dimension is good, and the fixed mindset, bad. That is not true. Whether each of the mindset is good or bad depends on the situation. For a fast moving situation where we need to react quickly - like that of an emergency - the fixed mindset might be appropriate since we don't have the time to take in every one's opinion. Additionally, in a very stable environment, where there is little change in the environment over time, the fixed mindset will also work, provided that one has the relevant experience.


the growth mindset in this Dimension applies the agile methodology of experimenting, learning, enlarging knowledge and moving ahead.

However, in an evolving, non-emergency, environment, past experience may not work for present circumstances, and clinging closely to what worked before may not be effectively. Notice, I mention the word "may", and not "will" because, we don't really know for sure, and so we need to test the situation. By taking on a measured approach to uncovering what really works - and not being too quick to prescribe a solution - the growth mindset in this Dimension applies the agile methodology of experimenting, learning, enlarging knowledge and moving ahead. Hence, the growth mindset is better suited for this situation.


As such, one can see that neither mindset is good nor bad; they just happen to work better in some situations than others. Yet, the situation these days is getting more and more unpredictable and there is certainly no constancy. Hence, the more applicable mindset is the growth mindset.


therein lies the conundrum. Instead of Fail Fast, Fail Cheap, they will shoot for the one Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG), simply because they need to maintain their "success reputation".

The impact of Pride

Notwithstanding that the fixed tendencies of the Pride Dimension are neither good nor bad, they can impact other Dimensions of the growth mindset, pulling them closer to fixed. For example, since fixed tendencies are such that one is fixated on past knowledge, the person is less open to learning new knowledge. That of course, impacts one's Learning Dimension. This also tends to keep the person locked into past actions, preferring to operate within limited, narrow bounds; bounds that will ensure continued "success". Yet such success becomes less and less valuable, leading to fewer and fewer breakthroughs. This therefore impacts one's Bounce Back ability because of the lack of exposure to Risks and a self-concept that is enwrapped in the past. There will be a concomitant contraction in one's Risk Taking tendencies, such that they operate within a very safe, comfort zone. Yet, therein lies the conundrum. Instead of Fail Fast, Fail Cheap, they will shoot for the one Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG), simply because they need to maintain their "success reputation". A BHAG within a narrow, safe, comfort zone is a recipe for disaster, as has been seen by many famous people in the past!



Building greater growth

It therefore stands to reason that one would like to develop greater growth tendencies in their Pride Dimension when one is operating in a constantly evolving environment. It is not difficult to do this, and it begins with...


we need to .... let go of being right, to let go of our past knowledge and experience

(1) Awareness. We need to accept the fact that we may have been stuck in the past and that this past will not help us navigate the future. We must be in the mindset to change the way we approach our personal and professional life, reminding ourselves that we don't know what we don't know, and it is through intellectual humility that we can open ourselves to learning. If we are not open, then we cannot build greater growth tendencies.


(2) Let go. The next step we need to do is to let go of being right, to let go of our past knowledge and experience. This does not mean that we should discard them; in fact we still need to rely on them. However, we need to hold off on prescribing a solution or to jumping to conclusion. Instead we need to...

(3) Step back and see the situation as a whole. This will allow us to look beyond the immediate cause-and-effect and see the system as a whole, and from there, identify what are the centres of gravity of the system, and how we can respond to that. This may also require us to uncover new information and knowledge. Which is the next step.


it is not what we know that will "kill" us, it is what we do not know.

(4) Find out what works and what does not work. In uncovering new information, we also assess what aspects of our knowledge works and what does not, adjusting our response based on that information. Oftentimes, it is not what we know that will "kill" us, it is what we do not know. Hence, in uncovering these areas, we not only enlarge our knowledge and experience, we also adopt a balanced response to changes in the environment, thereby ensuring our "survival".


(5) Adopt the right response. From here, we can choose the correct response to the situation, moderating our behaviours, and approaching the situation from a new angle. With that, you enlarge your experience and your repertoire, refining your problem solving capabilities, leading you to manage change more effectively.


(6) Review and improve. Finally, as you refine your response to change, you also improve your internal processes, reviewing the outcome, and applying a learn-as-you-grow mentality towards your past experience and knowledge.


Learning is impacted by Pride as Pride is itself impacted by Learning.

Learning is key

You will realise that the key to developing growth tendencies in the Pride Dimension is Learning. Interestingly, Learning is impacted by Pride as Pride is itself impacted by Learning. But primacy lies with the Pride Dimension because if it is not open to learning, not open to seeing its impact on the growth mindset, then it would also not be open to letting go. The solution to being more growth is simple but not easy. It will take every ounce of one's willpower to suspend judgement and listen to what the situation, and others, are saying. It is only in doing so would one be able to adopt a growth mindset in the Pride Dimension.



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