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Mind over matter: Cultivating a growth mindset

You are what you think! 

Do you believe you can achieve whatever you set your mind to? Or do you believe you need to stay in your lane and stick to what you already know because that’s your sweet spot? These are the basic differences between having a growth mindset and having a fixed mindset. As you can probably surmise, a growth mindset will make you a better leader and get you farther in your career and in life.

Filtering the world through your mindset

A mindset is a group of beliefs and attitudes about yourself, the world around you, and the interactions between the two. You use your mindset to filter the way you process everyday experiences (see more about filters here).

The concept of fixed and growth mindsets originated in the work of psychologist Carol S. Dweck and is explained in her book, Mindset: The Psychology of Success. When people have a fixed mindset, they believe their intelligence and abilities can’t be altered in a meaningful way. They tend to fear new experiences, avoid taking risks because they fear failure, and feel the need to prove themselves over and over. This kind of thinking stands in the way of progress and success.

People with a growth mindset view it differently. They believe they can improve through effort and the right strategies. They see challenges as opportunities, have a passion for learning, and consider failure a springboard for growth. This kind of thinking is strongly linked to greater happiness and achievement in life.

Cultivating a growth mindset

Much like being “set in your ways,” mindsets are also stubborn. They tend to persist until they are disrupted or replaced with a different attitude or belief. The important thing is, we do have the ability to change, both how we act and how we think.

  • Don’t believe everything you think! Get in the habit of challenging yourself to consider what you think and why you think that way.
  • Celebrate the value of the effort itself. While it’s great to see results—and that’s what society tends to reward—there’s value in the work itself. Take pride in progress made and milestones reached along the way. Even if you never see the results you wanted, you still worked for it and learned from the experience—that’s a win.
  • Flip the script. Be your own advocate by thinking positively and with growth and learning (not necessarily “winning” or “killing it on the first try”) in mind. For example:

A fixed mindset thinks…

A growth mindset thinks…

I might mess this up—I better not even try it. Even if I make a mistake, I’ll learn from it and get better.
I’m great at this—a natural talent. I practiced and learned how to do this as well as I do.
I’m not good at that! I’m not good at that! I’m not good at that YET, but I will learn.
This is good enough. This is good enough. Is this my best work? Can I improve?


  • Take and give feedback constructively. Of course everyone wants to hear positive feedback, but critical feedback is a pathway to growth. Ask, “How do you think I could improve? What could I do better next time?” Approach the feedback you give to others in the same growth-minded way. Your goal is to help them grow and improve; not cut them down or discourage them. When you give praise, praise the effort someone put in as much as the results.
The power of positivity

Norman Vincent Peale’s seminal best-seller, The Power of Positive Thinking, has endured for nearly 70 years for a reason: Positivity—the essence of a growth mindset—is a powerful, transformative force. And it’s totally in your control. Challenge yourself to grow by cultivating a growth mindset.

Our executive coaching and leadership development offerings emphasize a growth mindset along with self-awareness and ownership as fundamental to leadership excellence. Learn more.

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