In the past few years there has been a lot of chatter about Mindset, be it for students, managers, leaders or culture of a workplace.

So what is Mindset?

Mindset is how we view the world around us and ourselves in it. It can also be defined as the belief system about our abilities and potential, which fuels our behaviour and predicts our success.

Carol Dweck, the Mindset guru bifurcates Mindset into two categories - Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset.

A Fixed Mindset is when you believe that you are born with a certain set of skills or intelligence and this cannot change. For a person with this mindset success is viewed as the evidence of inherent intelligence, talent and ability. Under a fixed mindset, there is minimal chance of learning or growing because it will limit you from taking up tasks that need hard work or have a risk of failure given such tasks would prove that you are not inherently intelligent or talented.

A Growth Mindset is when you believe that by working on a skill you can master it. If you have a growth mindset, you can achieve anything that you put your mind onto. The more you flex the muscles of your brain, the more it will grow. A person with a growth mindset thrives on challenges and looks at failures as potential learning experiences and springboard for growth.

Why is mindset important?
In the words of Carol Dweck “the passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it even (or especially) when it’s not going well is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”

The difference in mindsets can also be linked with Imposter Syndrome (something I come across often in my work). If more people have a growth mindset, where you believe in overcoming your deficiencies rather than hiding them, then it would surely help us overcome the Imposter Syn- drome. Your focus would not be on hiding what you think you are not good at or pretending to be something you are not; but instead you would concentrate on becoming the best version of you.

So, then it raises the question of whether we are born with a certain mindset? Every child is born with a growth mindset - because without this a human infant cannot learn the basic skills of moving, eating and talking. However, as we get older, we might start associating with a certain mindset depending on our circumstances. If you were praised for your talent throughout your childhood and adolescent years, you might develop what is known as a fixed mindset. However, if you were encouraged to try new things, or praised for your hard work then you will develop a growth mindset. This is not black or white, you might transition between the two mindsets based on the situations and expectations from you. Overall, you will know what category you broadly fit into based on the table 1 below.


Do you recognise any of these qualities in yourself or those around you? Like we saw before the mindset you have when facing challenges is the key to your success! Be mindful of your own mindset - it’s ok if you think you have a fixed mindset, the more important thing is the kind of mindset you WANT to have, as mindsets can be changed! And you are never too old to make the change. The latest research in neuroscience about brain plasticity also supports this. It is now proven that the brain can change and develop at any age and stage of life.

However, mindsets can create an internal monologue which can set you up for success or failure even before you set on the task, including the challenge of changing one’s mindset. For a per- son with a fixed mindset, the internal monologue is based on judgement whereas for the person with a growth mindset, it is based on learning from the information.

If you find yourself stuck in a fixed mindset, then acknowledging that change will require effort, planning and thinking, including how to cope with setbacks is important. You need to answer questions like - what are my concrete plans to make the change? When, where and how will you follow through on your plan? Some of this might require visualising too.

Look out for my blog on Habits to see how to cultivate new habits and stick to them including habits that will help you change your mindset.

Research from various fields - sports, entertainment, finance, education, innovation has proven that to be successful you need to adopt a growth mindset (like I mentioned above). The downfall of the greatest teams in history or the biggest organisations or missions, all have one thing in common - a leader with a fixed mindset.2

So how does a leader with a growth mindset manage his/her team? Throughout the book Dweck gives us examples of how those with a growth mindset will act. Here are some tips of how to be a leader with a growth mindset, and how to encourage it in those we manage:
  • Listening: listen to others - their opinions and complaints without interrupting, encourage dis- course and debates.

  • Challenge hierarchy : everyone’s opinion and thoughts matter, not just those at the top. En- courage “we think” as opposed to “group think” (where everyone agrees with “the boss”, and no-one challenges).

  • Praise: When providing feedback, don’t just praise performance – praise initiative, seeing a dif- ficult task through, struggling and learning something new, being undaunted by a setback, or being open to and acting on criticism.

  • Mindset: Talk about growth mindset – present skills as learnable, and as a team value learning and perseverance, not just ready-made genius or talent, give feedback in a way that promotes learning.

Hope this helps you start thinking about the mindset you want to develop for yourself, your team and even your children going forwards.

Be aware of a False Growth Mindset. Some people believe they have a growth mindset but when you look closely especially their reactions to setbacks, failures or obstacles they demon- strate a fixed mindset.

  • Mindset - Carol Dweck
  • Big Life Journal - 7 Practical Ways to Teach Children Growth Mindset

1 Table referenced from the Big Life Journals Guide - 7 Practical Ways to teach children Growth Mindset
2There are some fascinating examples discussed in the book Mindset by Carol Dweck.