What Is A Growth Mindset And It’s Characteristics

The term growth mindset was coined by Carol Dweck, a Stanford Psychologist.  She was researching the power of our beliefs and how changing them can impact our lives.

A growth mindset is where we believe that our skills and abilities can be developed over time.  If you have this type of mindset, you'll believe that you can develop your skills and intelligence with hard work and commitment.

Why Does It Matter?

So, why does it matter whether or not you have a growth mindset?  Well, if you don't, you're going to find it difficult to achieve the life you want.

Your mindset impacts everything, from the way you live to the relationships you have.  For example, if you believe you aren't worth anything, you'll attract people who also don't see your worth. 

Or, if you believe you aren't good enough for a job you really want, you'll avoid going for it.  With a growth mindset, on the other hand, you'd apply even if you had doubts about your abilities.

The mindset you have can drastically change your life.  So, if you're looking to achieve your goals and live a happy and fulfilled life, a growth mindset is paramount.

What Is A Growth Mindset And Associated Behaviour

Have you ever noticed that some people always seem happy, no matter what is happening in their lives?

Or how some people constantly complain and moan about all the things that are going wrong. They act as if a cloud of doom follows them around everywhere, and there's nothing they can do about it.

Henry Ford famously said, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right." And this pretty much sums up how mindset works.

If you believe you can succeed, you're more likely to. But if you think you'll fail, you fulfil that prophecy.

Play a crucial role in whether our outlook on life is positive or negative.

Common Misconceptions About What Is A Growth Mindset

There are a lot of common growth mindset misconceptions out.  If you want to make a growth mindset work for you, then please be aware of some of the facts behind the myths.

Some of the most common misconceptions include:

  • A growth mindset is all about praise and reward
  • You either have a fixed or growth mindset
  • It isn't possible to develop a growth mindset
  • It's about being happy all the time
  • A growth mindset is the only thing you need for success

These are just some of the common misconceptions over what a growth mindset is and how it works.  While a lot of growth mindset does revolve around praising and rewarding yourself, that isn't all it consists of.  Instead, it focuses more upon learning from experiences and seeing opportunities in challenges.

Taking the leap from don't to do

It's not what you don't want to do, but what you are willing to do to achieve success

The Growth Mindset And Learning

Our mindset about learning tends to lean more toward one of two ideas:

Abilities are innate. We are born with the talent, traits and intelligence we will ever have, known as a fixed mindset.

A growth mindset is a belief that you control your own development and that learning is not something you do just when young but should be part of your whole lifespan.

What Is A Growth Mindset: The Characteristics

When we consider the growth mindset, we discover that there are particular characteristics associated with it. These include:

  • Value demanding work
  • Willing to learn from mistakes
  • Appreciate opportunities for development (even from negative experiences)
  • Work towards your best self
  • Desire to achieve self-actualisation

Building a growth mindset is not a quick fix scenario where suddenly, you can change the way you think about things. A growth mindset also relies on:

  • Effort – at times, hard work
  • Stimulation to learn
  • Practical strategies
  • Input from others

In the words of Dr Carol Dweck, the genius behind the growth mindset,

'The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.'

The secret to cultivating a growth mindset

The secret to success is making the effort to do the right things even when it's hard

The Secret Sauce To What Is A Growth Mindset

Thankfully you're not limited to the capabilities you're born with, but through effort and hard work, you can achieve anything. So there's hope for us all who believe we're not naturally talented.

The secret sauce here is effort.

To my mind, embracing a growth mindset is like embarking on a voyage of self-discovery. Are you willing to face stormy waters, the upheaval of emotions and challenging waves?

If you are, then the most extraordinary achievements will be yours.

the power of yet is something to think about

Not knowing something should not block your progress. End your thought with I don't know how to do that - yet!

The Power Of "Yet"

The definition of a growth mindset, according to Carol Dweck, can be defined as we are all on our own learning curve in life. Our ability to realise goals in the future is determined only by what we have yet to learn or understand. "Yet" is an essential word when it comes to growth-oriented thinking.

Instead of worrying about what you can't do, think of it as something you have yet to learn.

A positive outlook and working hard is part of having a growth mindset. Still, effort does not equal growth in all situations, especially where the goal has been set too far away or too near.

Outcomes matter, regardless of your mindset.

What Is A Growth Mindset: A Personal Example

I didn't enjoy geography at school. Although I liked my teacher - he was great. Until he told me he wasn't putting me forward to sit the O'level. He didn't believe I'd pass. But you know the first thing that went through my mind?

It wasn't

I'm useless

I hate you, Mr Roke

Geography - who needs geography anyway


My first thought was...

I'll show him

Little did I know at the time, but this was my growth mindset in action.

I worked really hard at the revision.  I went over my books with a fine toothcomb and set myself a schedule that involved revising a bit of geography every day.

My efforts paid off.  I did pass my O'level in geography. Mr Roke congratulated me and told me he was proud I'd proved him wrong. If I hadn't adopted a growth mindset, I would never have achieved this.

  • I didn't wallow in the criticism
  • I took action
  • I believed I could do it!

Worried You Don't Have A Growth Mindset?

Whilst having a growth mindset is something to aspire to, the reality is the majority of us have a mixture of both growth and fixed mindset.

Thankfully, if you do have a fixed mindset, you can always learn how to change. Unfortunately, none of us is perfect!

However, it may take a while, depending upon how long you have been stuck in your current fixed mindset.  The longer you have been living with a fixed mindset, the harder it will be to change.  But, it's always possible to change it regardless of how ingrained it is.

I know there are times when I think with a fixed mindset. So it's heartening to know that Carol Dweck confesses the same thing in her book Mindset: Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential.

But, I'm committed to improving every day. Are you?

find the key to open up what is a growth mindset

with the right key, you can unlock anything - including your mind

The Key To Changing Your Mindset

The key to changing your mindset is to take it slowly. You're going to need to actively work on taking small steps to adopt a growth mindset. 

You can start by challenging your limiting thoughts and behaviours.  With consistency, there will be a change in the way you think.

Final Thoughts

Now you know the answer to what a growth mindset is. You can start to develop a growth mindset without falling victim to its many misconceptions.  With effort, patience and persistence, you can begin to turn your fixed mindset into a growth mindset. 

Because when you adopt a growth mindset, magic happens. You can:

  • Start to accomplish your goals and dreams.
  • Begin to recognise that you can do whatever you put your mind to
  • Be as successful as you want in life.

When you change your mindset about learning, you realise that the world has much to offer and teach you through:




What will you achieve?

Further Reading:  

If you want to learn more about the benefits of a growth mindset, have a look at 30 Compelling Reasons Why You Need A Growth Mindset

About the author Alison

A qualified UK based coach with 30 years of experience in personal development.

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