Sometimes, you just need to take that step into the unknown.
Have you ever stopped yourself from doing something because you’re sure that ‘you won’t be good’ at it? For instance, you won’t attempt starting a business because you think you’re ‘not made for sales’. This is where you switch the narrative, and rephrase the words in your head: I don’t know much, but I can slowly develop the skills with a little time and effort.
That’s the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. In the case of a fixed mindset, a person believes that intelligence, ability and talent are inborn, and are fixed, and a ‘it is what it is’ attitude. When a person has a growth mindset, they believe that intelligence, ability and talent can be learned and improved with effort.
The growth mindset demands a confrontation with your deepest fears and ingrained beliefs. It translates into taking risks, daring innovations, unconventional thinking and the courage to test uncharted ideas, explains Veronique Bezou, an entrepreneur, founder and producer of Creadora, a Dubai-based creative agency.
Explaining her own story, she recalls how she left behind a 12-year corporate career and a stable paycheck, deciding to venture into creative fields. The journey was filled with ups, downs with two closed businesses, and and much skepticism from those around her, till she finally founded her own creative agency, which flourished. Summarising the meaning of what a growth mindset means to her, she says, “It defies past constraints, and allows you to redefine yourself beyond background, skills or your history. With dedication and learning, the possibilities are endless.”
Why is a growth mindset far more beneficial than a fixed one?
When you believe that you aren’t just ‘good enough’ for something, you stop trying. You become sure that you can never change, for example that you aren’t intelligent enough, or aren’t a natural leader. You’re overcome by a sense of helplessness and that’s when you start to struggle. This is why harbouring a fixed mindset is far from advisable; it leads to a defeatist attitude, possibly depression and anxiety. A person will avoid all challenges, and become intimidated by the success of others.
A growth mindset defies past constraints, and allows you to redefine yourself beyond background, skills or your history. With dedication and learning, the possibilities are endless...
On the other hand, a growth mindset allows you to be more flexible in your thought processes and adaptable to new ideas, changes and challenges, explains Natalie Hore, a Dubai-based wellness expert and holistic life coach. “By having a growth mindset, you are more willing to learn new skills and strategies, which helps to navigate different situations easier,” she says.
Moreover, you are more likely to see setbacks and failures as opportunities for learning. This helps you recover faster from pitfalls and motivate you further to try for different and better outcomes. You messed up a presentation at work? You promise yourself that you will prepare better next time. You missed a deadline? You evaluate your planning skills, noting down your tasks in an organised manner and see what to prioritise.
A growth mindset also contributes in reducing stress and anxiety by reframing thoughts in a far more positive manner. Instead of “Oh, I messed up badly, I can’t do this ever again”, you’ll say, “Okay, let me see how to work on this”. You’ll see the areas where you need to improve, and will invest time and effort into developing your abilities leading to long-term personal and professional growth, adds Hore. The fear of failure will gradually stop holding you back. You’ll take those calculated risks, take on challenges and embrace new experiences.
As a person focuses on developing skills, their confidence slowly builds up. This positivity spreads to other aspects of their life, including their inter-personal relationships. It could result in more collaborations and constructive conversations.
Why is cultivating a growth mindset good for the brain?
Curiosity does a better job than caffeine at keeping your brain alert.
These growth mindset principles benefit your brain in fostering learning and development. It also promotes neuroplasticity, enhances cognitive functioning and promotes overall mental well-being.
Definition courtesy: ScienceDirect.com
Hore breaks down the connection. “A growth mindset encourages the brain to create new neural pathways and connections. When you engage in learning, face challenges, and embrace new experiences, your brain responds by forming and strengthening synapses or connections, which improves its ability to adapt and learn,” she says. As a result, embracing a growth mindset leads to curiosity to acquire new knowledge and skills. This stimulates various brain regions, resulting in improved memory retention and recall.
A positive attitude is also said to be associated with a growth mindset, leading to the release of neurochemicals such as dopamine, which are associated with motivation, pleasure, and reward. For example, you won a race after losing the previous one. You had practised running every day, and now that victory gives you a kick, and pushes you forward for the next race.
A growth mindset encourages the brain to create new neural pathways and connections. When you engage in learning, face challenges, and embrace new experiences, your brain responds by forming and strengthening synapses or connections, which improves its ability to adapt and learn
You have a stronger willingness to learn and improve, says Hore. As you keep engaging in continuous learning and seek new challenges, the risk of potential cognitive decline can age. And so, a growth mindset helps in contributing to a healthier, resilient and agile brain.
What the research says…
According to a 2011 study published in the American journal Psychological Science, people with a growth mindset appear to demonstrate a higher error positivity, which is linked to heightened awareness and attention to mistakes. It also makes them much more receptive to feedback.
Another 2016 study published in the American journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, found that the growth mindset was linked to ventral and dorsal striatal connectivity with the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, which is the frontal brain region that handles self-control, ability to monitor errors as well as behavioural adaptation. In 2017, another study published in the American medical journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience found that people who embraced growth mindsets have a better chance of bouncing back from failures than those who believe that intelligence is “inborn”.
In simple layman terms, if you embrace a growth mindset, your brain accepts mistakes, and has better chances of learning from them. Your brain is also more conducive to accepting feedback.
How can you cultivate a growth mindset?
It’s never too late.
As hard as it sounds, look at difficulties and setbacks as learning experiences, rather than fearing them to be evidence of your limitations. In order to cultivate a growth mindset, you need to have more patience and value the process of learning, rather than awaiting instant results.
Mariam Azmy, a Dubai-based speaker, enterprenur and advocate for Woman in Leadership advises that failures need to be viewed as lessons to learn from, not as a symbol of inadequacy. “More importantly, acknowledge that progress takes time; don’t be too harsh on yourself if you can’t get it right the first time. It’s okay to fail,” she says. “Finally, seek out constructive feedback from those whose opinions you respect and use it to refine your skills. With consistent practice, these habits eventually reshape your thinking, fostering a mindset that fuels personal and professional growth,” she adds. Moein Al Bastaki, a motivational speaker, illusionist, gives his advice too, "If I would believe that there is a limit to my ability I would never be able to improve my stage and magical skills. When I was very young, I had this want to learn or to know what people around me think, I used to read lots of books to try and concentrate and learn about that."
He continues, "I got into different parts of science, like body language,and hypnosis to learn the secret gems of maybe being able to read somebody’s mind, so when I went on media, I was mostly known to be a mentalist or a mind reader, and nobody was performing it. I didn’t limit myself to only becoming a mind reader, I expanded and did bigger illusions," he says.
Acknowledge that progress takes time; don’t be too harsh on yourself if you can’t get it right the first time. It’s okay to fail. With consistent practice, these habits eventually reshape your thinking, fostering a mindset that fuels personal and professional growth
Here are some tips on how you can cultivate a growth mindset:
• Stay persistent in your pursuits, even when faced with obstacles.
• Focus on the progress you're making rather than comparing yourself to others.
• Continuously seek to expand your knowledge and abilities.
• Accept constructive criticism. See feedback as valuable information that can help you improve, rather than as a personal attack.
• Surround yourself with people who have a growth mindset. Observe their attitudes and behaviours, and learn from their experiences.
• Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that setbacks and mistakes are a natural part of the learning process.
• Set specific, achievable goals that motivate you to work towards improvement. Monitor your progress and adjust your strategies as needed.