A Deeper Look at Mindset Science

Imagine you’re invited to be part of a high visibility special project to design something new and solve a complex problem.  You would be collaborating with people you don’t know so well, from different parts of the company.  Some you secretly call the ‘rockstars’.   What’s your gut reaction?  Curiosity and excitement to try and learn something new?  Hesitation and worry about if you will prove you can ace it?   Will you accept the opportunity?

Carol Dweck, Ph.D. would say how we respond is a hint about our ‘mindset’.  Mindset is different from a particular perspective or attitude that we adopt. It runs in the background, is often trained into us in childhood, and reveals itself through our actions and reactions.  It is a quick well-travelled path through our brain that triggers the belief and context through which we see our ‘self’.

Dweck’s research identifies two mindsets:  ‘fixed mindset’, in which we believe our traits, talents, and abilities to be static and ‘growth mindset’, in which we believe our basic abilities and intelligence can be developed with attention and effort.

Let’s go back to your imagination.  You said yes to the invitation however you didn’t perform and contribute as you would have liked.  What was the consequence?  Did you beat yourself, thinking and feeling that you failed to prove yourself, your smarts?  Did you give yourself a pep talk about how for the next time you will prepare and engage differently?   Now switch your perspective…how do you respond to a friend or colleague that is telling you about their experience?

Dweck’s research reveals a cascade of mindset consequences in motivation, behavior, feedback, interpretation and trajectory (infographic by Nigel Holmes for Stanford – link to bigger copy below).

Surfacing our mindset, understanding the triggers, and noticing the subtle ways in which it influences our decisions and actions is another way to explore the gap between where we are today and where (and how) we wish to be in all our roles in the future.   Mindset surfaces additional self-awareness of if we might assume other are just like us in how they respond.

To optimally work with Mindset, it’s important to understand some of the misconceptions.  Dweck wrote on this topic for HBR in 2016.

Ready to read more on mindset and not quite ready for the whole book? Here’s an article that also includes a bigger copy of the graphic.  Read it here.

Grow on, my friends.

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