The Dangers of A Growth Mindset

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We continue to hear about this supposed “growth mindset” and how we should really strive to rewire our ways of thinking and step away from the “fixed mindset.” We may even know what a growth mindset is – at least from a definition perspective. So, what makes a growth mindset so dangerous? Misuse. I’m not referring to “thinking too hard” or “overusing your brain.” I’m referring to misuse of the increasingly popular term “growth mindset.” Allow me to explain.

What a growth mindset IS –

  • The belief that we can change and develop our intelligence and our abilities.

What a growth mindset IS NOT –

  • The belief that we can change and develop our intelligence and our abilities and therefore, we should expect instant change, tons of extra work hours and have unrealistic expectations. Those ideologies are consistent with burnout.

So no, moving towards having a “growth mindset” is not dangerous in itself…but failing to set realistic expectations for yourself and for others can be detrimental. Did my title fool you? Good. Let’s keep going.

“Sorry, I will need to see the science to implement this one.”

  1. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to shift and change by creating new neural pathways and ridding itself of pathways no longer in use. Your brain requires that you challenge it. Simple as that. It isn’t enough to perform the same seemingly difficult task every day; it requires performing and practicing various difficult tasks every day. Use it or lose it!
  2. Neurons migrate throughout the developing brain by the rerouting and sprouting of neurons. When you learn, new connections form and the internal structure of the existing synapses change. This is the rationale behind why you can continue to learn new things throughout your entire lifetime and why your brain can heal itself after sustaining damage. Neuron to something here!
  3. Brain agility means to reframe your current approach to situations and to develop the brain functions you currently underutilize. These agile movements maximize your brain’s performance across diverse and unfamiliar tasks. Jack of all trades, master of none…but oftentimes better than a master of one.
  4. Simplicity is crucial. By practicing mindfulness and shifting our attention to the present moment, we can effectively decrease our stress by reducing our levels of the stress hormone “cortisol” in the blood. In fact, with long term practice, our brain will increase the number of folds in the prefrontal cortex through a process known as “gyrification.” The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain associated with brain agility, quick reflexes and the ability to think creatively. Simple life, smarter brain.

“Okay, okay, so I understand what a growth mindset is and the science behind it…but what store sells one?”

Unfortunately, you cannot just buy a new mindset for yourself or others. It takes time, energy and effort!

  • Effort – Make it a priority and hold yourself accountable. This is especially important when you’re facing resistance. Remind yourself why you chose this route in the first place.
  • Change your approach – Ask yourself and your team metacognitive, open-ended questions, while keeping in mind that everyone has different ideas and opinions. Embrace their perspectives, ignite your team’s passion and watch your team thrive.
  • Learn – Cultivate an environment that stresses the importance of learning from a task-oriented perspective, rather than an ego-oriented perspective. It’s okay to be competitive but remember your goal is to learn, develop and improve. Keep in mind that not everyone learns the same way or at the same pace.
  • Feedback loop – Give and receive feedback. This is necessary for improvement. Engage and ask your team for feedback. What are you doing right? What can you do better? Be receptive to their feedback and check in with them to evaluate your progress. Also, provide meaningful feedback and what that means understanding what fuels your team isn’t necessarily about achieving his or her goal, it’s about the progress along the way. Part of your feedback should be recognizing this progress and appreciating your team for even beginning in the first place because it’s taking that first step that is often the hardest.

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