Growth Mindset

Growth mindset for your career

Growth is a fundamental idea for every part of life, including our careers. What better way to start thinking about the idea of growth than to look at the flowers and plants in our gardens? 

For a plant, the journey begins with the seed. Though seeds vary in shapes and sizes, each seed holds the potential to burst forth new life. But the future of that seed depends on the right conditions. Without the right inputs and environment, the potential of what is possible for the seed never comes to fruition. We will never see the peonies bloom if the seed doesn’t first have soil, water and sunlight. 
For many of us, we have a desire to achieve goals and reach our own definition of success. The seed for our future self is present, but how do we get to the end goal we dream about? Scientists have found that mindset matters. Like plants, our brains need the right inputs to steer our life and allow us to grow into the potential we each possess. Mindset may be the most important input our brains need to help us boost growth and move forward. 

The Science
The term growth mindset has its roots in research that dates back more than three decades. Dr. Carol Dweck coined the terms growth mindset and fixed mindset after studying student attitudes about failure in the classroom. During her studies, she found that if students believed they could become smarter they would also spend more time studying and practicing their skills. Their beliefs influenced their actions, which in turn impacted their achievement levels for the better. This belief in the power to transform the brain became known as growth mindset. On the opposite end of the spectrum is fixed mindset, which just as it sounds, does not change or develop beyond current conditions. 

Growth mindset definition

As studies about the brain and mindset continued, neuroscientists discovered that connectivity between neurons (the brain’s messengers) can change and improve. This ability to essentially re-wire the brain with new connections and increased strength (known as neuroplasticity) leads to speedier transmissions within the brain and body. 

The guiding force to recharging the brain with new neuron connections? Mindset. A person’s mindset guides behaviors and behaviors dictate outcomes. 

The Mindset
Mindset doesn’t limit itself to the confines of our brains. Our mindset often makes itself apparent in our words and then eventually our actions. When the words show up as negative self-talk or are spoken aloud, this negativity-filled fixed mindset has the power to hold us back. 

But with awareness and effort, anyone can move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Just like a plant can recover from a temporary lack of nutrients, our brains can recover and rebuild once we shift our mindsets. 

Fixed mindset versus growth mindset examples

Growing Forward
With a growth mindset front and center, the question then becomes, where do you want to grow? Maybe you want to promote to the next level at work, gain a new skill set or learn something just for fun. Whatever the motivation, you can take a few growth tips from a seed. Every seed, no matter the size, goes through three steps of development to achieve its own growth goals. 

Steps to use growth mindset

Step 1: Get Planted
Step one for any seed is to get planted. That means finding the right environment for where you want to grow. Different goals need different environments, just as different seeds need different amounts of space to reach their full size. This may mean changing your environment to support the goal you have in mind. It could be small tweaks to ensure both your home and work environments provide what you need, or it could be a complete transplant to a new city, company, volunteer organization, etc. Just as you can’t expect a palm tree to flourish in the cold conditions of Alaska or an oak tree to reach its full height in a pot, you can’t expect to thrive if you are not planted in the right place. 

Step 2: Grow Roots
For the seed to reach its next step in the growth process, it must establish roots before germination. Using the nutrients contained within the seed itself and with some hard work, the seed begins to break open and grow a root system. The root system provides foundational support for it to fully sprout. 

Like the seed, you already have gifts, talents and experiences you can use to nurture your own growth. Using these as strengths in the right environment, you can settle in to your role, project or learning experience and begin to grow stronger roots. This means taking steps to get involved, speaking up, asking for new assignments and embracing challenges. Putting strengths to use and finding ways to build your skills further can establish a stronger root system and foundation for yourself.    

Step 3: Find Energy Sources
During the third step, the seed grows beyond the initial sprout to a full-fledged plant or tree when in a nutrient rich environment. Sunlight is a must for energy and water helps strengthen the root system for sustained growth. For you, this means finding sources of energy and learning. What excites, challenges or recharges you? 

As you soak in the opportunities of the environment and lessons each experience has to offer, you grow stronger even when mistakes or failures happen. Making mistakes is unavoidable, and more importantly necessary, to grow your brain and your skills. So don’t be afraid to take the next step and keep growing.  

Be Your Own Career Gardener
It can be tempting to look at someone’s success and long to be at the same stage. But expecting that late stage success without investing the work it took to get there is like looking at a dogwood tree in bloom and not considering the seed that started the journey. The strength and beauty did not happen overnight. With slow and steady growth each year, along with the right conditions, the small seed became a majestic dogwood tree. 

With growth mindset as the fertilizer to the seed of your own potential, you can bloom beyond where you are today. So get planted, let your roots grow and begin to flourish into the future self you always envisioned. 
Growth mindset quote