There was a group of intellectuals who met regularly to discuss and critique their literary works. Eventually, two sub-groups of these individuals began meeting apart from the main group. One group would have no mercy in their criticism of someone else’s work. The other group was the exact opposite; they offered positive feedback and encouragement to everyone who came to their meetings. Twenty years passed and someone decided to conduct some research on how these individuals did in their careers.

The researcher determined not one of the people in the first group had developed or created any meaningful literary work. On the other hand, the members of the second group had several successful writers, some had even achieved national acclaim. The researcher determined, even though they were all of the same educational level, their mindsets were completely different. Members of the first group developed a negative and fixed mindset of contention, doubt, and criticism. The people in the second group had a very positive and growth oriented outlook of encouragement and affirmation as part of their mindset.

Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success discusses the aspects and attributes of fixed mindsets and growth mindsets. According to Dweck, the fixed mindset is almost binary in nature. “Am I smart or dumb? Am I good looking or ugly? Am I a winner or a loser?” A fixed mindset is “a loser is forever.” Therefore, the reference to a binary mindset applies, you are either on or off.

People who have developed the growth mindset, however, believe they can develop the right mindset by themselves, because they are open to accepting information, as Dweck says “even if it’s unflattering. What’s more, if you’re oriented toward learning, you need accurate information about your current abilities in order to learn effectively.

If, however, everything is either on or off about your traits- as it is with fixed mindset people- distortion almost inevitably enters the picture. Some outcomes are magnified, others are explained away, and before you know it you don’t know yourself at all.”

Dweck went on to acknowledge Howard Gardner, the author of Extraordinary Minds who stated that exceptional people have “a special talent for identifying their own strengths and weaknesses.” People with a growth mindset are of the same belief. Those people are able to accept their failures and turn them into successes. A survey of of over 140 researchers on creativity indicated that ‘creative achievement’ was the main ingredient to success. Perseverance and resilience were two of the growth mindset elements that made up achievement, according to Dweck.

She went on to say “When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world- the world of fixed traits- success is about proving you’re smart. In the other- the world of changing qualities- it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new or developing yourself.” In a growth mindset world, failure is about having one setback. Getting one bad grade. Losing one tournament. Getting fired. It doesn’t mean you’re not smart or talented.

In the growth mindset world, failure is about not growing. Not reaching for the things you value. It means you are not fulfilling your potential. In the fixed world, effort is a bad thing. It, like failure, means you’re not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn’t need effort. In the growth mindset world, effort is what makes you smart or talented. Dweck says “You have a choice. Mindsets are just beliefs. They’re powerful beliefs, but they’re just something in your mind, and you can change your mind.”

A growth mindset assumes that someone can improve upon whatever abilities they possess. By helping others to obtain new skills and locate the resources necessary to achieve their goals. If not, the fixed mindset comes into play by making someone feel like a failure if they do not achieve their goals. However, Dweck does concede that many of us go back and forth between the two mindsets.

She points out failure with the growth mindset has been transformed to an isolated action “I failed,” versus in the case of a fixed mindset to an identity “I am a failure”. In terms of business growth, you must instill a spirit of action when a difficult situation arises, pointing out that just because someone failed at one thing, it does not mean they are a failure for the rest of their career. The important objective for business growth is to learn from your mistakes.

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