Learning new skills and approaches can help our neurons grow and forge new connections with each other.

When we take the well worn path of approach (often the ‘lazy’ defensive style of thinking) our neurons get stronger in those pathways, but weaker in others. Like a frequently walked bush track, the path becomes more defined the more often we walk it. If we don’t try to bushbash our way to alternative paths, we may never see that special view from the peak of a mountain, or the hidden waterfall we never knew existed.

The work of Dr Carol Dweck from Stanford University is focused on the impact of mindset on how the brain works neurologically. Carol Dweck’s research explores the concept of two different mindsets: Growth and Fixed Mindset.

She believes that people’s intelligence can be developed and grown, rather than fixed, genetic or something you are ‘born with’. Often when we are stressed or pressured, we may take the ‘well worn path’ or fixed mindset, which requires less effort but often creates aggressive or passive states of mind that are not helpful for us and not conducive to growth.

Being in a growth mindset allows us to see possibilities rather than create limitations. It can remind us that the brain is malleable, always changing and always primed for new experiences and new perspectives. Both mindsets are also malleable states – we can flick in and out of them constantly, or begin fixed and end up growth.

How to spot the difference between a fixed mindset and growth mindset:

Characteristics of a Fixed Mindset:

  • Believes that ability cannot change, that it is something you are born with
  • Under represents past successes and over represents failures
  • Views effort as a sign of low intelligence and low ability ie. ‘If you have to put so much effort into something, then it probably means that you don’t have what it takes naturally’.
  • Resilience is low and ‘gives up’ when faced with adversity or when things get hard
  • Judges people according to personal characteristics ie. Good or bad, caring or selfish etc.
  • Values external success is exceptionally important as it is a way of validating ability and demonstrating worthiness. Failure is toxic to those with a fixed mindset, and must be avoided at all costs.
  • Feels defensive when provided with critical feedback
  • Avoids risk taking, preferring to play it safe in order to completely avoid mistakes.

Characteristics of a Growth Mindset:

  • Sees people as essentially malleable and changeable, and believe that every person has the potential to grow and develop
  • Believes that ability can change and developIs self-actualised – often creating goals that involve learning, rather than a specific outcome (concentrating on the journey or process, not the end result)
  • Tries out new ways of doing things and is creative and strategicTries harder when faced with a setback
  • The definition of success is mastering something, feeling stretched or learning new skills
  • Sees failure not as a negative, but as a learning opportunity
  • Prefers to make ‘learning’ goals, rather than goals based on performance

Growth mindset will allow you to be more creative and innovative in your work, problem solve more effectively and develop new approaches and new ways of dealing with stress when the old ways aren’t working anymore.

Growth mindset creates high performance. It can build compassion, understanding, better relationships and resilience and capacity.

When faced with a setback, stress or challenging scenario, ask yourself the following growth mindset questions

  1. How can you use this challenge or setback to improve the situation for the future?
  2. Have you put in the effort to achieve the result you can be proud of?
  3. What can you try next? What strategies will you use?

Craft is led by Melbourne based coach and consultant Ami Summers.

Ami has spent more than a decade as an accredited coach and leadership development consultant.

Clients that have worked with Ami consistently say she is a compassionate, wise and deeply pragmatic coach with a gift for empowering the individual or business owner to see they have the resources to transform themselves and the world around them.

She is accredited and experienced to deliver a number of diagnostic tools to help unlock an individual or teams capability and strengths.
Craft’s main focus is to deliver valuable business results whilst bringing out the best in an individual or business. We do this by sharing creative leadership tools that are typically only available to large corporates.

We offer individual coaching, leadership development consulting services, group mentoring and small business coaching.