Carol Dwecks amazing book Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential, introduces the concept of the growth versus the fixed mindset. In short, the 'fixed mindset' individual believes that talent and ability are innate, you either have them or you don't. In contrast, the 'growth mindset' individual believes that you can stretch or grow your brain so your ability to learn potentially has no bounds!
As a leadership coach I come across the fixed mindset frighteningly often, and it is often coupled with imposter syndrome (the fear of being 'found out' to be less capable than others believe me to be).
These fixed mindset people often sabotage their own development, refusing to subject themselves to things they might fail at. The logic being that if I fail it will prove I am not as talented as I (and others) thought I was. So they tend to stay within their comfort zone, doing things they know they can be successful at. This fear leads to growth paralysis and also a engenders a constant search for affirmation from others to prove that 'I am brilliant or clever or talented'. Those who question this 'innate ability' can end up being cut off or cut down at the knees!
People with a growth mindset are different wee beasties. These curious folk see the process of learning as fun and exciting in itself. They see failure as adding to the knowledgebase which helps them to grow and do better next time. Learning new and challenging things is exciting, stimulating and energising to them.
So which mindset is right?
Well this great little video from the Khan Academy shows that the brain is like a muscle, science shows it is possible to grow the neurons of the brain through learning and stimulation. Not only that, but it is the more challenging and difficult tasks that grow our brain the most.
What does this mean?
Well it means we can grow our brain even more by getting things wrong than by getting them right. Puzzling and struggle are good for the brain. So our growth mindset folk are on to something, not only are they more open to challenge and accepting of failure as part of the growth process, but the canny folk are growing their brain in the process.
So what are you going to stretch your brain muscle with today?
For the scientific run down on this watch the video now...