If you are looking for ways to develop a growth mindset as described by Carol Dweck in her seminal “Mindset“, you have come to the right place.
I come from a fixed-mindset household, I grew up with a fixed mindset… And now I am successfully moving towards a growth mindset.
This post shows you I did.
It’s a life-long pursuit, of course, but I’m well on the way.
And here I will share with you how you can also get a growth mindset.
Let’s start with a quick recap:
- Fixed Mindset
- Growth Mindset
- How To Develop A Growth Mindset
In a fixed mindset, people believe their traits are fixed.
You’re either good at something or you’re not, and there’s no way to change that.
And when you believe your traits are fixed, your traits, skills, and qualities, define you.
When your traits and skills define you, any failure stings deeply because it reaches you at the core of your identity. When you fail, it means that you are a failure.
Can you start seeing how a fixed mindset is deeply harmful to you?
Since failing means, you are a failure, fixed mindset people shy away from challenges to protect their ego and their social standing.
A huge fear of fixed mindset people indeed is failing publicly. When they fail publicly they are “found out” for the failure they are, and that’s a stigma they’ll never be able to overcome. How could they? Their traits are fixed!
To avoid ego burns and permanent loss of social standing, and fixed mindsets people spend their effort trying to appear good. They only engage in what they’re already good at, stay in their comfort zone and meticulously avoid pushing their limits further.
Maybe they tell themselves “they would be good if they did”, but that’s mostly ego candy stories they tell themselves to prop their self-esteem up. They never really try, because they could fail and then they can’t tell themselves the fake stories anymore.
When they fail indeed they’ll still try to cling to their stories. They’ll say it was someone else’s fault and they’ll do their best to shift blame.
That’s the perfect recipe for
living wasting a life making excuses instead of living and experiencing life to the fullest.
Fixed mindset people never grow and commit the ultimate sin: they never realize their full potential.
Social Fixed Mindset
When you combine a fixed mindset with poor social skills, the result is that you will always be stuck with sub-par social skills.
Fewer friends, fewer and less appealing partner options, and, in general, a less satisfying lifestyle compared to the one you’d have once you reached social proficiency.
And when you are in any social situation, any social faux pas means people will see how socially awkward you are so… So you never do anything social!
Do the following scenarios sound familiar?
- You’d like to attend that event… But you don’t go
You might end up not talking to anyone.
Then you will feel like a reject and everyone around will see what a wallflower you are
- You like her but do nothing
What if she refuses you? It means you’re unattractive. Better not go, so I can keep telling myself she might have liked me and I can have a chance… Sometimes… In the future…
- You’d like to join your friends… But you don’t go
They’re going to play football, but you don’t go as you fear being poor at it; they go skydiving but you’re terrified of showing yourself terrified.
- You don’t understand but are afraid of asking questions
Your boss’s presentation made no sense.
But what if you’ll make a stupid question?
Everyone will think you’re stupid. So you say nothing and never realize anybody else understood squat.
People with a growth mindset people believe they will improve and get better with practice -and failures-.
Growth mindset people look forward to challenges because it make them grow and improve.
Make no mistake, failure can still be painful, but failure does not define growth mindset people.
It simply means they aren’t good yet. Yet is the keyword in a growth mindset.
And failure after failure, they will get good.
Social Growth Mindset
Socially awkward people with a growth mindset are much less likely to stay socially awkward for the long haul.
They’re less likely to hide at home, more likely to take risks, and more likely to learn from feedback as they don’t have the strong need to protect their egos.
They might not enjoy social situations and certainly, they won’t enjoy awkward moments.
But they’re not paralyzed by them.
They’re not afraid of being defined by a bad joke, a rejection, or by a group of three that doesn’t open to including them.
While it may hurt, they know that the more awkward and embarrassing situations they go through, the more they improve.
That sounds typical self-development trite BS, doesn’t it?
Well, it’s with a growth mindset that you lay the foundation for it to stop being trite BS and start becoming your reality instead.
Advantages of a growth mindset:
- Ability to stare at your reality and weaknesses without pain
Ray Dalio says you must learn to love reality, even when it hurts.
Fixed mindset people can’t manage that: their ego-protecting mechanism will distort reality for them.
If you’re poor socially start telling yourself the truth: you suck right now. And that’s great.
Just imagine how much better your life is going to be. Because now you’re going to change that.
- Being not yet good is your starting point, not your destiny
It’s damn freeing to know that however bad you are at anything… That’s not your destiny and that’s not who you are.
That’s only your current situation, and you always have the power to change that.
- Bad social interactions are training
When you start looking at bad social interactions as training, then a magical thing will happen: you will look forward to social interactions, be it good or bad.
How To Develop A Growth Mindset
Done with the theory.
I hope you’re now convinced you need to adopt a growth mindset. If not, make sure you do it before proceeding.
Tony Robbins righteously says your willingness to change is the very first step to change.
So if you’re willing to adopt a growth mindset, let’s start:
#1. Rewrite Painful Past
A fixed mindset is propped by fear of looking bad.
And the times in the past when we looked at our worst function as fear-laden baggage.
Like a child who’s been burned by fire our most embarrassing moments have been burned in our memories and our subconscious does everything to avoid anything similar.
Those memories are the nails on your cross and the clips on your wing preventing you from taking off.
Let’s begin our change by removing the ballast first.
It will hurt a bit in the beginning, but it’s pain that will set you free.
Start thinking and reliving all your most embarrassing moments in life:
- That time you said hi to your friend but it was someone else (I did that)
- When you forgot your lines at the class performance
- When you fell and people laughed
- When she told you she doesn’t date fat/short/dark / whatever (I’ve been told worse)
- When you burped or let one rip a bit too loudly
Think about those painful moments.
Don’t put your hands on your face, don’t make weird facial expressions, and don’t stop thinking about it.
Stay with that pain for a while.
It’s not that unbearable after all, is it?
You’re still alive.
Now it’s time to need to start changing what all those moments mean to you.
Pick a couple of these re-framing techniques that best suit your personality and tell yourself:
- I’m glad about them because they made me stronger
- I’m proud I can think about them and laugh
- It’s providing me with the anger I need to move ahead
- I’m proud that I did it no matter the result
- I’m glad it happened, so I can prove to myself I keep going no matter what -that’s the kind of man I am-
- F*ck that noise. Other weaker men would crow. I’ll do it another thousand times
Share The Pain
Brene Brown in Daring Greatly says that shame is a social feeling and it’s cured with a social balm.
She recommends you share your most embarrassing moments and speak about them.
Shame dies when you openly talk about it and share it with people close to you.
Relive Shame With Power
Relive those scenarios while you are in a strong state.
Meditate and imagine you flying like Superman.
Then go back to those memories in a powerful state. Imagine a time you felt great and then think about those memories.
Laugh as you think about them.
Do it enough times and those memories will lose their grip on you.
Change Your Memories
Tony Robbins calls this the “erasing technique“.
He says you can change your memories of painful events by re-enacting them differently in your imagination.
Imagine silly music was playing.
Imagine you growing bigger like Hulk and punching the motherfu*ker(s) into deep space. Think you laughed along with everyone else.
Do it enough times and the memory won’t sting anymore.
I prefer not to use this technique as ideally, you’ll want to own up to your mistakes.
Ideally, you can bear your painful moments and change the way you look at them without “changing them”.
But if you need it, there’s no shame in this. Just do what works.
#2: Associate Pain to Fixed Mindset
Tony Robbins says to change any neuro-association you have to feel pain and discomfort for what you want to change.
Look at your life and realize that you’re not living because of a fixed mindset. Think of what you don’t have and what you have missed so far. For example:
- Evenings at home
- No parties
- No partners
- No friends
- … Add as much as you can.
Think of your friends instead.
They’re enjoying life and having a good time.
Trips with girlfriends and boyfriends, parties, networking, and career opportunities.
Hate your fixed mindset in your guts.
Now start looking back in disgust, you’re about to change that.
#3. Associate Pleasure To Growth Mindset
Think of what you will get moving to a growth mindset.
Associate pleasure with all the opportunities.
- Friends & partners
- Growth & improvement
- Strength & Resilience
- The power of walking to an event on your own and leave with friends
- Walk into a bar and -it’s not a joke- leave with phone numbers
#4. Associate Your Identity With Growth
Identity, how you are, and how you consider yourself drives behavior.
Start taking pride in who you are as a man with a growth mindset.
Write down the new you, tell people about the new you and you will also put the Commitment and Consistency principle on your side.
This man moving forward no matter the obstacles will be the new you. Start taking pride in the new you.
#5: Learn The Science Behind It
In a world full of bling and unfulfilled marketing promises it’s useful to know this is not woo-hoo science.
Read Mindset, Carol Dweck’s research-based book on Growth Mindset.
Do know that the brain IS plastic.
It means it can change, it does change and you can drive that change. The Brain That Changes Itself explains how neurons that fire together wire together.
The Talent Code explains myelination, how the more we do something the more natural it becomes.
Ramachandran makes it clear that the brain is a mass of neurons that never sees the light and literally makes up our reality.
And we can change that reality in ways that suit us best.
That being said, also know the limitations.
Read “pop-psychology myths“ and “self-help myths“.
But in spite of the scientific limitations in reproducing the effects of a growth mindset, they are real (also read “psychology replication crisis“).
#4: Change Every Day
Charles Duhigg says that habits take repetition to develop and become natural.
You need to build new neurological pathways and disempower the old ones through disuse.
It simply means you need not think like you used to think and practice your new mindset as much as possible.
The Power of Habits says that new habits require determination, grit, and repetition over time.
But that’s good news: willpower works like a muscle that grows with time, so this is great practice.
For the daily grind, Carol Dweck herself advises to:
- Hear your fixed mindset voice
Listen daily when your fixed mindset speaks to you.
It will tell you some people are too good and talented. It will tell you better off not trying because you might fail or embarrass yourself.
When you fail, it will tell you “of course, you have no talent, you better quit”.
- Recognize you have a choice
Whether you choose to heed the fixed mindset or you choose to follow the growth mindset is up to you.
- Talk back to the fixed voice with a growth one
Don’t lie or brag, be real.
Say you’re not sure you can manage and you can well fail, but you will learn and you will move forward. If you don’t try you didn’t save face, you lost anyway.
That’s what’s shameful for the new you.
Then be proud you’re going forward, this is your new identity, and this is what you will build your self-esteem around.
- Choose the growth mindset
Go for it.
Learn from the mistakes, accept and learn from the criticism.
Be proud you’ve gone for it, no matter the result. That’s a new precedent that will reinforce your new identity.
#5. Get Excited About Learning
This is the most powerful, and resilient growth mindset:
Getting excited at the prospect of growing and learning, and filtering everything through that opportunity.
In your daily life, you will come across feelings associated with a fixed mindset thinking.
Always be replacing those feelings with empowering, growth ones.
Here are some examples:
- Jealousy towards someone far better = wow, what can I learn?
- Failure = nice I went for it, what candid I learn
- Painful criticism with push-back feelings = I’m excited, I’ll listen and soon get better
- Pain of finding shortcomings = great, it means there’s room for getting better
You will try to make excuses for your failure, you will avoid difficult situations and you will be jealous of those who are so much better than you are.
Always replace those feelings with getting excited about your new identity and about being the learner.
Someone is better than you? What can you learn?
#6. Shield Yourself Against Fixed Mindset
Most people live with a fixed mindset and/or are not used to pushing boundaries and making big demands of themselves.
So in your life, many people around you will try to drag you down with their disempowering talk.
Don’t try to change those people, but avoid them and cut them out of your life.
When you hear anything fixed-mindset-like, repeat three times in your head:
I can do it if I want to
I can do it if I want to
I can do it if I want to
A growth mindset is not a direct cure or short-term fix for a specific woe.
But it’s a deep-roots, long-term solution that touches on everything in your life.
In terms of social skills and power dynamics, it will not give you the strength to go for all the social interactions you need to get good by itself.
But it will make you want to go for it.
So as you improve your social skills, you will also enjoy the struggle.
A growth mindset also makes you less afraid of failures and put them in perspective. Failures become manageable with a growth mindset. And useful as well: they’re there to show you the right path forward.
Finally, as a reminder, remember: balance.
Even for a growth mindset, the law of optimum balance applies.