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What Exactly is Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset is often misunderstood. Sometimes it is thought of as a Mindset for Business Growth. Sometimes it is associated with unrelenting and passionate desire to grow.

Growth Mindset is actually far from it. Prof Carol Dweck in her seminal book “Mindset” tries to explain this through an example. I am paraphrasing the scenario with a slight change:

“You are pursuing an Executive MBA while continuing your day-job. One day you go to the class which you are passionate about. The professor returns the mid-term papers and you have got C+. You are clearly not happy as you were expecting more.”

A fixed mindset person would think one of the following:

1. I am not very good in the subject, after all.

2. Shirk and find reasons such as work pressure that caused lower grading.

In extreme scenario of such repeated results, a Fixed Mindset person may stop trying.

However, as a Growth Mindset person, you would realize that the grade possibly reflects the work you have put in. You would want to ensure that you will try understanding the real reasons and work harder to improve on the grades.

John McEnroe* was a typical Fixed Mindset person in his playing days who believed that talent was everything and did not thrive in challenges at all. Fixed Mindset people believe that they are superior, talented and entitled and believe that hard work is for untalented folks, for people with deficiencies. They just cannot take up challenges and failures.

Michael Jordan* was on the other hand a growth mindset person. He wasn’t a natural. He became what he became by his sheer hard work.

So, what is Growth Mindset. Growth Mindset is about:

1. Believe in working hard and effort more than talent: They believe in hard work and not something that is left for untalented.

2. Believe that people are not born with skills and capability but they can be built: There is innate belief that one can build skills and can constantly improve upon them by effort and practice.

3. Not allowing failures to deter or define them: They know that one will fail when one tries. Like a child who is not afraid of standing and walking in spite of falling. The child is not looking to see who is seeing. Like the child, the growth-mindset people learn from failures and work harder to get better.

Their vocabulary is not “I am not good enough” but it is “I have not done enough”.

4. Seek and take up challenges in spite of failures: They love to attempt at new things and do not look at the end results before trying. It does not mean that they are rash about it. Just that attempting new initiatives or taking up next levels of challenges.

5. They are keen to learn new things: People with Growth Mindset spend time and effort in learning due to their belief that skills can be built and one is not borne with talent and ability. For them, learning is part of hard work and effort.

We will delve upon how to measure Growth Mindset and how to build Growth Mindset separately.

But we can make one change right away. The next time your child does well in sport or in exams or in a task, don’t praise the child saying “great job done son. You are really good at it”. You are encouraging Fixed Mindset. Instead try, “great job done son. Your hard work and effort shows” or “great job done son. You must have put in the hard work.”. You are building Growth Mindset by encouraging hard work and by not glorifying talent and ability. You are preparing for failures. You are building Growth Mindset.

Want to discuss Growth Mindset and exchange ideas - DM me at or at Thilak Iyer | LinkedIn.

*both examples of Michael Jordan and John McEnroe are from Prof Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset”.


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