When you think about your own life, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced? Maybe it was a job interview gone wrong, or maybe it was an unfortunate encounter with a client. Regardless of what happened in the past, if you want to overcome these challenges, there’s one thing that will help more than anything else: your mindset. In this article, we’ll explore why having a growth mindset is so important and how to cultivate it in yourself and others.

What is a fixed mindset?

A fixed mindset is a belief that your abilities are set in stone. In this mindset, you either are born with a talent, or you’re not. This way of thinking includes believing your skills and knowledge cannot improve, and therefore, the risk of failure must be avoided at all costs.

For example:

  1. “I’m really bad at math.”
  2. “If I can’t do it right off the bat, then I won’t ever be able to learn how.”

What is a growth mindset?

A growth mindset means believing that you can improve your skills through effort and practice. It’s about believing you can learn new things and expand your knowledge and intelligence.

A person with a growth mindset tends to aim for higher goals. For example, they might say that being an astronaut isn’t impossible; all it takes is a great deal of hard work and practice! Whereas a person with a fixed mindset will not aim for lofty goals and dreams for fear of failing.

Finally, someone with a growth mindset knows that failure is a part of the learning process. In fact, it’s an important part of it. If we learn to accept failure as something temporary, then we can move forward with learning new things and succeeding!

How can people with a fixed mindset switch to a growth mindset?

Here are a few ways to evolve from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

  1. Realize that abilities are not fixed and that everyone can develop new skills, such as learning how to be more empathetic or more confident. Research by Harvard psychologist Jerome Kagan shows how confidence can be developed over time through exposure therapy—essentially, getting used to uncomfortable situations until it becomes natural for them (and eventually enjoyable).
  2. Talk about mistakes as they happen to learn and help others learn. For example, if you have a tough stretch at work when you feel that you’re making a lot of mistakes, talk to your colleague or supervisor about the experience. You’ll be better able to figure out how to overcome your mistakes and avoid them in the future. This also will show everyone you can learn from your own mistakes and others’.
  3. Know that the brain is malleable and can always change. The brain changes rapidly during childhood and adolescence, and it takes time for those changes to stabilize. As an adult, it certainly is more challenging to change, and it takes consistent repetition of good habits to achieve the change you want. But it is possible!
  4. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself and others. The words you use in conversation can say a lot about how you think. Negative comments and topics create a negative working environment. As long as there is a positive atmosphere in which people feel supported by others who want them to succeed, it’s much easier for someone to break the habit of thinking negatively about their abilities.

If you’re looking to make a change in your approach to work, it can be helpful to adopt a growth mindset. If we think about our skills as things that are always improving, we’re more likely to be open-minded and absorb new information. The growth mindset is a key part of the Ambition skill, which emphasizes taking initiative to continually improve. The Center for Work Ethic Development helps participants practice a growth mindset to develop their Ambition, along with the six other most vital workplace skills. With this mindset, we can improve by trial and error rather than sticking with what we already know how to do well—which often is the reason why people don’t try something new at work!

The Center for Work Ethic Development has identified the seven most essential workplace skills that help people reach their highest potential in their careers. These foundational skills include attitude, attendance, appearance, ambition, acceptance, appreciation, and accountability. To learn more about The Center for Work Ethic Development’s seven essential workplace skills and how to implement our curriculum in your workplace, visit workethic.org.