Why It Is Important to Foster a Growth Mindset Early

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Credit: Priscilla Leung (https://dribbble.com/pleung)

The way you perceive yourself can have an unseen impact on the way you learn and grow as a person. Whether you see your own intelligence, talents, and personality as something as predetermined or open to change lays down a foundation for the way you face challenges. Studies have shown that manifesting a “fixed” versus a “growth” mindset from a young age can have a snowball effect on your behavior, relationship with success, and failure in professional and personal life — that’s why it’s important to acknowledge what kind of mindset you have early. In fact, entrepreneurs are prime examples of how growth mindsets develop because of how they welcome failure in open arms to bolster new ideas. In today’s day and age, a growth mindset favors openness to uncertain outcomes which allows one to be prepared for the future.

Professor Dweck at Stanford University first coined the dichotomy between what she called a “Fixed” versus a “Growth Mindset”. Having a fixed mindset is the belief that the qualities you possess are innate. It is the belief that your character, intelligence, and creativity are set in stone. People with a fixed mindset can be heard saying, “Well, that’s just the way I am.” People who possess a fixed mindset can also be seen as performance-goal orientated. They focus on the adequacy of their ability, rather than the process of learning. People with a fixed mindset perform to measure up to a certain standard to maintain a sense of being smart or skilled.

On the flip side, having a growth mindset is the belief that your qualities are malleable, things you can cultivate over time and effort. Instead of being performance-goal orientated, they are learning-goal orientated. Instead of focusing on completing tasks, rising up the ladder, they are intent on developing mastery over time. Instead of avoiding failure at all costs, and viewing failure as an indication of unintelligence, people with growth mindsets reflect and see failures as a springboard for growth and to stretch the abilities they currently have. Another point of comparison is that people with a growth mindset find inspiration from others’ successes rather than seeing them as a threat.

Elements such as social-emotional competence, culture, relationships, and intellectual curiosity are especially relevant in the 21st century where the career landscape favors interdisciplinary and diverse streams of knowledge and teams. A changing world comes with unforeseen challenges — that’s why harnessing a growth mindset early is not only beneficial in terms of potential for professional development, but the capacity for openness free from a deterministic view of the status quo to create solutions that entrepreneurs often have to come up with. A dynamic world will favor people who live up to and relish ever-changing challenges.

So, how can one practice a growth mindset? Or how can parents, teachers, or companions encourage others to adopt one? A growth mindset encircles engaging in the process. When giving support, don’t merely praise intelligence or talent, but work ethic. Praising the process such as effort, strategies, focus, perseverance, and improvement creates people with resilient minds with an open attitude towards failure. The benefits of engaging in the process rather than the result allow children to be active and accountable in their learning. Children become more reflective, intentional and exercise autonomy because they are not motivated by extrinsic factors but are driven intrinsically. However, Dweck emphasizes the importance of not falling into the trap of encouraging a “false growth mindset”, where praise is given even if no progress is made. It is important to tie the praise to the effort that led to learning progress.

It is not to say that everyone just falls into one category or another. Like how not all things are black and white, criticisms of these two mindsets note that it should be seen as a continuum instead — everyone is made up of a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, and this mixture can evolve with time and experience. So while having a growth mindset has benefits, one should not feel demoralized if they relate to a fixed mindset but should acknowledge that with time they can develop a growth mindset with the right resources and support from peers and mentors.

See how CoCoon Foundation fosters a growth mindset by encouraging entrepreneurial skills outside of the school curriculum at https://foundation.hkcocoon.org/

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